Traveling with the family can be joyful or tearful, memorable or miserable. Successful family adventures all have one thing in common: smart planning. Keep drive times short, always have snacks handy, and visit only the best family friendly cities and attractions.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Don’t make the mistake of seeing this breathtaking natural masterpiece like the Griswold family in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” — with a hurried glance and a scramble to get back on the road — find a comfortable hotel or resort and stay for a night or two. Make sure to get into the canyon, preferably with one of the many free guided hikes offered by National Park Service rangers.
Image via Flickr by A. Duarte
Get up close and personal with wildlife from around the world in Escondido. No swing through Southern California would be complete without a visit to the world-class San Diego Zoo Safari Park, just east of the city. See the wide variety of animals and habitats — from rhinos on the African Safari to the endangered California condor at Condor Ridge — on a guided caravan ride or while speeding through the air on the park’s zipline course. After the safari, take the kids to the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum or have some grownup fun with a tour of the Stone Brewing Co., one of America’s most famous craft breweries.
When visiting Los Angeles with kids, a trip to Disneyland is a no-brainer. Since 1955, Disneyland Park has welcomed hundreds of millions of kids — and grown-up kids — through its magical gates. Enjoy the classic Disneyland favorites, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and Space Mountain, and make time to see the new attractions on the Disney property, particularly the new California Adventure theme park. Find a convenient, comfortable hotel in nearby Orange, like the DoubleTree by Hilton Anaheim – Orange County, and make it your Disney hub.
Image via Flickr by denn
West Hollywood, California
Just minutes from the movie and television studios and kid-friendly attractions like Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, make the colorful neighborhood of West Hollywood your home while exploring the entertainment capital of the world. Classic movie fans should take a tour of Old Hollywood to see the backlots of the major studios where their favorites were filmed; celebrity-spotters can take their pick of bus and van tours hoping for a star sighting.
Marina del Rey, California
From the busy, crowded streets of Hollywood, escape to nearby Marina del Rey for a relaxing walk on the beach or some fun on the water. Walk the oceanfront boardwalk from Marina del Rey to Venice Beach for some of the world’s best people watching; ambitious walkers can continue all the way up the beach to Santa Monica, about 90 minutes each way. After walking the boardwalk and testing your sand castle engineering skills, book a cruise, arrange for sailing lessons, or sign on for some sportfishing at the harbor back in Marina del Rey.
Family travel doesn’t have to be an expensive nightmare, and the kids don’t have to be the only ones having fun. Savvy planners can find family entertainment anywhere, but these Western favorites are a good start.
Cory Hanson is an American travel writer specializing in American and European travel. This is part of a series of American destination posts sponsored by travel search and booking service Hipmunk. Find more Hipmunk posts here, and a full sponsored content disclosure here.