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Planning a fun family vacation can be a tricky thing; maybe some of you want a beach vacation, while others may want to be in a big city for lots of urban exploration. And if you have small children, you want to make sure that wherever you go, you won't be faced with the phrase that brings parents to their knees: "I'm bored!" Never fear. Hotwire has lots of ideas for family vacation destinations from bustling big cities to relaxed desert oases to lazy beach towns.
Whether you want to splurge or save, we've got information on how you can make the most out of spending time with your family in a new and fun destination. So don't wait: take a look at a list of our top family vacation destinations and get a few great ideas. Our inventory will help you choose the family vacation that best fits your family's interests.
Orlando, FL, is the best spot for family vacations. In addition to a heavenly climate, Orlando is also the theme-park capital of the world. SeaWorld, Universal Studios, Disney World — you can visit them all. Save time by purchasing theme-park tickets before you arrive and avoid waiting in long ticket lines. Get your fill of family fun at the world's most famous theme park: Walt Disney World. Watch Mickey and the crew come alive at the Magic Kingdom, explore the wilds of Animal Kingdom, experience movie magic at MGM Studios, or explore the world at Epcot.
For more thrill-seeking adventure, jet around SeaWorld's Wild Arctic, get wet on the Journey to Atlantis, or watch legendary Shamu perform. In addition to wild rides and shows, you can also visit with penguins and sharks, or play games on the Midway. If the kids are interested in science, wander through the Orlando Science Center's exhilarating exhibits or head to the observatory for a first-hand glimpse at the stars. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and attractions to satisfy the whole family in this warm-weather paradise.
Take the family on a fun and educational vacation — the two terms don't have to be mutually exclusive in vibrant and historically rich Washington D.C. One of the best things about D.C. is the sheer number of free attractions. Take in numerous monuments and memorials — Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington, Vietnam Veteran's, WWII. Or visit any of the 16 museums and galleries that comprise the Smithsonian — you can check out everything from real space ships to the Hope Diamond.
Take a tour of the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the Holocaust Museum, or simply stroll the huge Mall — you'll be sure to catch an outdoor festival or concert at any given time of day. But it's not all about politics and civic virtue in the Capital City. Take the family to Georgetown, a bustling shopping district and home to Georgetown University. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in this area, as well as the nearby Adams-Morgan district, where you'll find a slew of appealing dining options and music venues.
This desert oasis in the southwest is a great place to take the whole family for fun and relaxation. Phoenix is the largest city in Arizona, and it's filled with treasured places to visit. Explore the Sonoran Desert Museum which features both a botanical garden and zoo filled with coyotes and lions! Or take the kids to the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix. It features numerous hands-on exhibits and a giant planetarium.
Adjacent to Phoenix is the city of Scottsdale, which is internationally known for being a premiere tourist destination. Architectural great Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West is nestled in the mountains of Scottsdale and worth a visit. Meant to be a winter home to Wright and his students, today it houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, a school for architects, and is open to the public for tours. Many of Wright's most famous buildings were designed in the drafting room of Taliesin West. If you are traveling with your family by car, about three hours outside of Phoenix is the stunning Red Rocks of Sedona. The sandstone formations form a breathtaking backdrop for everything from meditations to the hundreds of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.
It may not come to mind as the first spot for a family vacation, but it's actually an ideal city for a family getaway. Popular with adults and kids alike, Alcatraz offers fascinating day and nighttime tours of the remnants of the prison. Take the audio tour and listen to the voices of actual prisoners as you visit their cells.
A favorite among tourists, Fisherman's Wharf is known for its historic waterfront, delicious seafood, spectacular sights, and unique shopping. This lively area offers a wide array of things to do and see. Visit the Maritime Museum or Ghirardelli Square, or see the sea lions near Pier 59. Try a taste of the local catch, like Dungeness crab or chowder in a sourdough bowl. Check out Union Square to take the kids on a cable car ride and treat yourself to first-rate shopping and fabulous cuisine.
The whole family can have fun in relaxing, idyllic Honolulu. Oahu's largest city and the state capital, Honolulu is home to many top attractions: sample a great dim-sum lunch in vibrant Chinatown or check out Aloha Tower, the city's landmark harbor-side clocktower surrounded by a marketplace brimming with shops and popular restaurants.
Honolulu is also home to famed Waikiki Beach, located between the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and Diamond Head. Waikiki's Beach's white sand runs along a 2-mile stretch of coast, flanked by dozens of high-rise hotels. The area is popular for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, body-boarding, picnicking, and outrigger canoeing — you and the kids will never be lacking for things to do! At the end of the beach is Diamond Head, one of the world's most famous volcanic rings. Although no diamonds were ever found here, the calcite crystals in the lava rock sparkle in the bright Hawaiian sunshine.