With the kids out of school and parents frequently on abbreviated work schedules, summer is the time to pack everyone in the car and head out for a family vacation. Just a few weeks are left before the school year starts, so there’s still a little time to plan the trip that the kids will always remember. Here are Yahoo’s top family vacations.
The adult playground of Paradise Island (Photo: Thinkstock)
Paradise Island in the Bahamas wasn’t always paradise. The 685-acre island, just off the shore of Nassau and connected by a bridge, used to be called Hog Island. The sprawling Atlantis (No. 8 on our list) is the best-known and largest resort on the island, with a water park and a walk-in aquarium. While meal plans are available at the Atlantis, it’s not all-inclusive. With kids, an all-inclusive resort can be particularly beneficial — no worrying about food and drinks! Try the Riu Palace Paradise Island, which includes activities such as swimming with the dolphins. And with a name like Paradise, you know it has to be good.
2. Grand Canyon
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is a popular entryway to one of the most spectacular sights America has to offer (Photo: Thinkstock)
Trekking to the Grand Canyon has long been an American family tradition. Parents bring their kids to marvel at a canyon that is 277 river miles long, 18 miles across at its widest, and one mile deep. Phoenix is about a five-hour drive away, and most visitors go from there to the South Rim, where the majority of facilities are located. The North Rim is open only from mid-May to mid-October and can be more difficult to access. The park offers a number of lodges close to the rim, with trailheads nearby from which you can hike a short (or long) distance into the canyon.
The idea used to be to escape FROM Alcatraz. Now families are flocking to escape TO the infamous prison (Photo: Thinkstock)
While Alcatraz, an island in the San Francisco Bay, is best known for once being a high-security prison, today it is operated by the National Park Service and is open for tours. Most visitors catch a ferry from Pier 33 in San Francisco. Hornblower Cruises, operating as Alcatraz Cruises, runs the official ferries to and from the island. Once you’re there, the abandoned prison is the primary attraction for kids, but the island has a long history to discover.
The San Diego Zoo is worth skipping a day at the beach (Photo: Cburnett/WikiCommons)
San Diego is a popular spot for a family trip, with its warm weather and sunny beaches. There’s no place more families head to than the massive San Diego Zoo. The zoo houses more than 3,700 animals of 650 species. While many animals are more active in the morning, you’ll want to stay all day to get the full zoo experience.
5. Rose Hall Suites (Jamaica)
The (haunted?) Rose Hall (Photo: Rose Hall)
In between enjoying the beaches and the laid-back attitude, make sure the kids get some history while in Jamaica. Rose Hall, built in the 1770s on Montenegro Bay, is the most famous house in the islands, known for the legend of the White Witch. The story is that Annie Palmer learned witchcraft after her parents died of yellow fever, and then she moved to Jamaica, where she married the owner of the Rose Hall Plantation. She allegedly murdered him, two subsequent husbands, and a number of plantation slaves. Today she is said to haunt the house, which is now owned by Michele Rollins, the 1963 Miss World USA. If you’re planning to take a day or night tour, stay at the nearby Hilton Rose Hall.
Universal’s “Shrek 4D” show is so amazing, you could almost reach out and touch Donkey (Universal Studios)
Orlando, Florida, is home to more than a few amusement parks. In addition to Disney World, take the kids to Universal Studios. The theme of this theme park is movies and television. Over 7 million people visited Universal Studios in 2013. Some of the most popular attractions include the new TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D, Shrek 4D, and MEN IN BLACK: Alien Attack, and Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone. In July, the brand-new Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened, which connects via the Hogwarts Express to the rest of the Harry Potter attraction at the adjacent Islands of Adventure theme park. The only downside is that you simply won’t be able to visit it all!
Colonial Williamsburg is one town that knows how to stay in character (Harvey Barrison/Flickr)
More than a museum, more than a town, Colonial Williamsburg is the largest living-history museum in the U.S. The 300-acre historic area, in the heart of Williamsburg, Virginia, requires a ticket to enter. But once inside, you can visit the historical buildings and see a number of daily re-creations. For the kids, that includes playing the “spy” game RevQuest, building bricks, trying out historical games, or training with the militia. Parents hope their kids have fun and learn things. Colonial Williamsburg is the place for both.
Atlantis appears on this list twice (Photo: Thinkstock)
While there are a few Atlantis Resorts, the most well-known and popular is the Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas — mentioned at the top of this list. The Atlantis is a massive resort and water park. It opened in 1998 and has added towers and attractions in the years since. In 2007, Atlantis opened Aquaventure, a 141-acre water park. The most popular ride at Aquaventure, the Current, is a mile long and includes fake waves, tides, and rapids. The resort also houses a lagoon and a number of aquariums. Oh, and there are some regular beaches too.
Smithsonian Castle, one of the Museum’s several buildings (Mr.TinDC/Flickr)
Established in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., and New York (where the Cooper-Hewitt and the American Indian Museum are located), is the standard by which all other museums in the country are measured. In fact, it used to be known as the United States National Museum. With over 137 million items, the Smithsonian includes 19 museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park. The main campus is situated right on the Mall in our nation’s capital, and admission is free. But know in advance what you might want to see — history, air and space, portraits — or the kids could easily get overwhelmed.
For a family wilderness vacation, nothing beats Yosemite (Photo: Airwolfhound/Flickr)
Almost 4 million people make the trip every year to Yosemite, in the middle of California. The vast majority of those people spend their whole trip in Yosemite Valley, where there is park lodging, a visitors’ center, and popular day hikes. If you want to travel out of the gorgeous valley, there are thousands of miles of wilderness to explore.