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Top 10 U.S. Summer Family Vacation Destinations

By Editorial Staff

Contributed by Sara Shea, Info Guru

The best way to truly enjoy your summer vacation is to put the time and energy into researching destinations that the whole family will enjoy. Once you have decided on a location, finding family hotel rates, discounted airfare, and other specials is only a question of online research.

If you are seeking ideas, tips and inspiration for summer vacation destinations in the good old USA, here are our top ten selections, starting with #10:

10. The Hawaiian Islands

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If you are ready to escape to paradise for your family vacation, consider visiting one or several of the Hawaiian Islands. Beaches, volcanoes, lush tropical forests and gardens, waterfalls, as well as vanilla, macadamia nut, coffee and pineapple plantations are some Hawaii’s unique tourist destinations.

Outdoor family activities abound in Hawaii. Hiking, swimming, tubing, surfing, zip line adventures, para sailing, etc are just a few of the options. Most family-friendly Hawaiian resorts offer kids’ clubs, educational cultural activities and lavish pools with slides, waterfalls, and other features.

9. Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s most scenic highways, stretching 470 miles through Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, connecting Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.

The winding parkway boasts stunning vistas, wildlife viewing opportunities, blooming wildflowers and native plants. Many hiking trails and campsites are located directly off of the parkway. Other notable landmarks include pioneer settlements, coal mines, Appalachian folk and craft centers, and historic Native American sites.

8. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is a fascinating vacation destination, famous for the powerful, underground geothermal forces that have created rare geological formations, and phenomena such as crystal-blue hot springs, yellow rivers of sulfur, bubbling mud holes, steaming geysers and ethereal hot pools boasting brilliant mineral colors of green, blue, pink, orange and yellow.

Mammoth Hot Springs, the Old Faithful geyser, Belching Dragon and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone are some of the park’s most notable attractions. In addition to geothermal features, the park offers hiking, backpacking, camping, boating, and horseback riding and white-water rafting, as well as opportunities to view wild life such as elk, bison, moose, wolves, even grizzly bears.

7. Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, Nantucket Beaches, Massachusetts

If beaching it your family’s preferred approach to summertime, plan in advance and research lodging and accommodations on the Massachusetts sea shore. Sand dunes, tidal pools, beaches, marshes, board walks, arcades, historic lighthouses and parks conjure nostalgic memories of eras passed.

Many of these islands were major hubs for mariner activity and whaling in the 18th and 19th centuries. Be sure to explore museums, art galleries, and historic sites that offer exhibits and educational resources regarding this early American maritime history.

6. The Adirondack Region, New York

Upstate New York is a playground for kids of all ages during the summertime. Lake Placid and Lake George in particular have gained popularity as summertime vacation retreats where outdoor activities abound. Swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, camping, cycling and horseback riding are just a few favorite pass-times. The region features over 3,000 lakes and ponds, 2,000 miles of hiking trails, more four-star resorts, hotels, and spas than any other destination in New England.

Other area attractions include Fort Ticonderoga, which features thousands of pistols, muskets, bayonets, and swords dating back to the 18th century, historic battlefields, rodeos, theme parks, train rides, and the Adirondack Park Agency’s Visitor Interpretive Center which offers bird and butterfly watching and live raptor demonstrations.

5. Boston, Massachusetts

As one of America’s oldest and most historic cities, Boston is rich with cultural, historic, and family oriented attractions. From the sporting events at Fenway park to the street performers and baked beans at the Faneuil Hall Market Place, Boston is full of surprises. Be sure to check out Boston’s state-of-the-art Children’s Museum, the Boston Duck Tours based on the classic children’s book “Make Way for Ducklings”, the fabulous Museum of Science, the Boston Aquarium and the Boston Harbor which features the Dragon Boat Festival in early June, Harborfest in late June, and the Fourth of July Celebration with the Boston Pops in July.

If you are planning a Boston visit, invest in a Go Boston Card or a Boston City Pass, which are both multi-attraction savings passes offered by the city and tourism bureau. During the summer, these passes offer a five-for-one savings on tourist attractions. Some Boston tourist attractions will also offer discounts for visitors presenting AAA cards.

4. Mesa Verde, Colorado

If your family is fascinated by ancient history, archeology, exploration and ancient history, then the Mesa Verde National Park, celebrated as the archeological center of America, should take priority on your list of vacation destinations.

National Geographic Traveler identified Mesa Verde as one of the “50 Must See Places of a Lifetime” and readers of Conde Nast Traveler selected it #1 in the Top Monuments category. Climb the cliffs to the Cliff Palace and Balcony House, spectacular ancient dwellings of the Puebloan people. Follow the San Juan Skyway to the Trail of the Ancients. Don’t miss the Anasazi Heritage Center, Monument Valley or the Arches.

3. Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park, California

There exists a particular Sequoia tree named General Sherman, celebrated as the largest living organism in the world. This tree, nearly 300 feet tall, boasting a trunk circumference of over 36 feet, is located in a grove aptly named the Giant Forest, which contains three of the other tallest trees in the world. A family vacation to hike below these breathtaking giants in an unforgettable event.

In addition to tremendous trees, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park are home to rare wildlife, breathtaking views, scenic camping and hiking. In the summer, be sure to inquire about ranger-led walks and talks, and kid-friendly educational programs at the Beetle Rock Education Center.

2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is truly one of the most spectacular landmarks in the nation. Railway tours, helicopter tours, hiking tours, horseback or mule tours, or even jeep tours are just a few of the methods for families to explore the scenic canyons and trails that descend to the Colorado River. Many park hotels visitors centers offer family events, presentations, classes, workshops and activities on the topics of geology, history, wildlife, and natural resources.

1. Glacier National Park, Montana

Visiting Glacier National Park in big sky Montana has been described as one of the most refreshing life experiences. The majestic, pristine mountains, sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains, are referred to as the “Crown of the Continent Ecosystem” where rare species of plants and animals exist. The mountain ecosystem includes tundra and prairie, as well as ancient forests of red cedar and hemlock.

Glacier national park is listed as our #1 pick for 2010 family vacations because this year is particularly special for the park. 2010 marks the centennial anniversary of Glacier National Park’s founding. A vast array of events, programs, and family oriented activities is planned.

More about our Top Ten US Summer Vacation Destinations:

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Children look forward to summer all year long. When school ends, kids are relieved to enjoy a break from books and classrooms, and are ready for trips, adventure, outdoor excursions and activities. For parents, the process of planning for a summer vacation is generally started four to six months earlier. Wise parents know that it is best to initiate the planning stages with family discussions. Asking children about their personal likes and interests will help to make children feel involved and enthusiastic about vacation plans.


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