When you think of the best places to travel with kids, what family-friendly destinations come to mind? We're willing to bet that popular tourist attractions like the Grand Canyon, Walt Disney World, and Yellowstone top the list. While there’s nothing wrong with a National Lampoon’s Vacation kind of family trip, we’re going to suggest that you go somewhere a bit off the beaten path for your next vacation.
Besides, between the overpacked car and the sibling squabbles, a family trip is stressful enough without adding anxiety-inducing crowds into the mix. Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, an educational outing, or an amusement park experience, we have alternatives for all the tried-and-true family vacation classics. Keep reading to find out where to go to beat the crowds and, more importantly, save your sanity.
Ahead we’ve round up the six best places to travel with kids that you probably haven’t considered yet.
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Instead of the Grand Canyon, Visit Bryce Canyon National Park
Located in: Southwest Utah
Why you need to go: Bryce Canyon is incredibly accessible with a drivable rim and tons of family-friendly hiking trails. Plus you can enjoy stunning views without the crowds of the Grand Canyon.
What to do once you’re there: Drive the park’s 38-mile scenic route, allowing for plenty of time to stop at each of the 13 viewpoints along the way. If you’re feeling adventurous, hike among the hoodoos, the park’s famed, oddly shaped rock formations. Depending on how much time you have, you can even take a guided horseback ride into the canyon.
When you should go: Visit in the off-season (October through April) so you can take plenty of family photos sans strangers in the background.
Instead of the Georgia Aquarium, Visit Monterey Bay Aquarium
Located in: Monterey, California
Why you need to go: Located on the shore of Monterey Bay, the aquarium offers visitors the unique opportunity to see marine life both in captivity and in the wild. Grab a spot at the railing of the ocean-view deck, keep your eyes peeled for whales and dolphins, and then head inside to see jellyfish, sharks, and much more.
What to do once you’re there: Watch the playful sea otters, stand in awe of the kelp forest, and press your nose against the glass of the shark tank.
When you should go: Head to California’s Central Coast in either the fall or spring (when the fog is less likely to encroach on the beautiful view).
Instead of Walt Disney World, Visit the Kennedy Space Center
Located in: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Why you need to go: The Kennedy Space Center is a blast (with the added bonus of having tons of STEM-learning opportunities). Besides, who doesn’t want to be an astronaut for a day?
What to do once you’re there: Explore the history of the space program through dozens of interactive exhibits, see the awe-inspiring Space Shuttle Atlantis in all its glory, and take a ride into the stratosphere via the Shuttle Launch Experience.
When you should go: Most of the exhibits are indoors, so any time of year is a good time to visit the Kennedy Space Center.
Instead of Yellowstone National Park, Visit Glacier National Park
Located in: Montana, near the Canadian border
Why you need to go: Due to warming climate change, these icy giants might be gone by the time your kids are adults. Take them to see the glacier-carved peaks, photogenic lakes, and diverse wildlife while you still can (and save that family trip to Yellowstone for a later date).
What to do once you’re there: With over 700 miles of hiking trails, there’s a lot to see in this national park. Some highlights you won’t want to miss include hiking to Crater Lake, driving the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road, and kayaking in Lake McDonald.
When you should go: Although the park will be packed, summer is the best time to go. Plus, it’s the only time of year the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open (and the drive is worth planning around).
Instead of the National Civil Rights Museum, Visit the King Center
Located in: Atlanta, Georgia
Why you need to go: Located in the neighborhood where Dr. King was born, raised, and lived for most of his life, The King Center traces the Civil Rights Movement from its origins to present day. The center’s informative exhibits offer plenty of opportunities to have thoughtful discussions about difficult topics like racism and intolerance with your kids.
What to do once you’re there: Visit the historic landmarks located within walking distance from the center, including Dr. King’s birth home, Dr. and Mrs. King’s gravesite, The Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Freedom Hall, and Historic Fire Station No. 6.
When you should go: Walking from landmark to landmark will be more comfortable in cooler temperatures, so consider planning your visit in the fall or spring when the weather is milder.
Instead of Park City, Visit Brighton
Located in: Brighton, Utah
Why you need to go: Utah boasts “the greatest snow on Earth,” and Brighton gets lots of it. To give you an idea, Brighton Resort reports an average of 500 inches of snow each year. While the crowds descend on Park City, Deer Valley, and Snowbasin every winter, you can enjoy the same dry, powdery snow with shorter lift lines at Brighton.
Once you get there: Hit the slopes. Brighton Resort’s 66 runs will keep everyone in your family busy all vacation long. Plus, kids under 11 years old ski for free (parents, rejoice). If you need to pick up some skills, the resort offers lessons for kids and adults at all skill levels.
When you should go: Avoid crowded runs by planning your trip between the months of January and April.