52 Great Family Vacations

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FAR Middle Fork of Salmon Middle Fork

(Above: Float the Middle Fork of the Salmon with Far & Away Adventures )

 Lacking creativity when it comes to planning your family getaway? 

No more excuses!

You’ll find something for everyone on this list of family vacation ideas:

1. Visit Aquarium of the Pacific.  Long Beach, CA. 
Touch a shark, feed lorikeet birds, watch penguins play, or even speak with an underwater diver! During your visit, you can explore the Aquarium’s three main galleries, including the chilly Northern Pacific, the colorful Tropical Pacific, and sunny Southern California/Baja.  You’ll witness fascinating marine animals from weedy sea dragons and sea jellies to our puffins and sea lions.  There are informative shows and feedings at major exhibits throughout the day. And, you can even have colorful lorikeet birds eating right out of your hand in the outdoor aviary. Check out Shark Lagoon, where you’ll learn about and even touch the ocean’s most mysterious and misunderstood predator. Explore the Aquarium’s latest exhibit, the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, featuring Magellanic penguins. You can even enhance your visit with an animal encounter, behind- the-scenes tour, boat trip, or 4D film. For more information, call 1- 888-SHARKS2. Visit  www.aquariumofpacific.org for advance tickets; 562.590.3100

 2. Beaver Creek Resort. Beaver Creek, CO.  Always a family favorite, kids love the ins and outs of this resort’s Adventure Zone, where  cruising over bridges and around teepees adds an extra thrill to a day on the slopes.  A new ski-through teepee trail has been added to the lower mountain, where  the younger set can get in on the action. Parents ( and kids ) will love the new  Ripperoo’s Rockin’ Registration program, designed to take the stress out of first morning sign-ups and gear gathering.  Register online and access all information, paperwork and equipment upon your arrival. Meanwhile,  the ski school crew and mascot will entertain the kids with face-painting, music and snacks.  Year round, you’ll relish time at the Park Hyatt  Beaver Creek Resort & Spa. Make time for your favorite treatment post a ski or hike day. Enjoy dining outside in summer at 8100 where the view + culinary taste treats will sustain you in style.  Contact: www.BeaverCreek.com; http://beavercreek.hyatt.com

3. Dive Brac Reef, Cayman Brac. From this small, family-friendly island, families can enjoy a dive vacation that includes exploring the waters around Cayman Brac as well as the Russian Frigate and the Bloody Bay Wall near Little Cayman Island. The on-site dive shop provides personalized attention to the soon-to-be certified as well as the seasoned diver. The all inclusive, beach front resort also offers free bike rentals to explore the island, spa services and volley ball. Ask about special packages for families. Contact: 1-800-594-0843; www.BracReef.com.

4. Ghost Ranch Family Week. Abiquiu, NM. Steep yourselves in the incredible beauty of this northern New Mexico landscape that provided inspiration for Georgia O’Keeffe and many other artists and photographers.  Time together will include campfires, games, hikes, yoga, waterfront activities, an arts center for creativity, a musical concert, outdoor movie nights and Coffee House, the Ghost Ranch version of a talent show.   Contact: www.GhostRanch.org.

5.  Go Global. Talk to the pros at Intrepid Travel and they’ll tell you  that most kids are master ice-breakers, eager to ask questions and make new friends. That’s why they’ve created a series of family adventures that include homestays with a multigenerational family in Morocco or meals at a tucked away trattoria, known only to resident Tuscans.Most importantly, many departures are keyed to school holidays, like Spring Break, Thanksgiving and in December, so families can plan a cross-cultural, kid-centric experience to dreamy destinations like Brazil and Botswana without missing too much school. (Although we can make quite a compelling argument that there is no better way to learn the ways of the world than to get out there in the thick of things!) English speaking, kid-friendly, local guides will assist your small group in uncovering the most authentic experiences in your chosen destination. Contact:  IntrepidTravel.com.

6. Book a packaged trip. The cost of flying and hotel stays is forecasted to rise as much as five percent in 2012.   Families can compensate for the expected increases by choosing a travel package that combines rooms, flights and even car rentals. Taking advantage of negotiated and bundled rates can make a trip to your chosen destination more affordable and simpler to book. Contact: www.Expedia.com; www.Travelocity.com; www.Travelzoo.com.

7. Take a cruise.  By offering sporting activities, food choices, original entertainment, and shore excursions designed for every member of the family, cruise lines are going out of their way to lure families aboard their sea-faring vessels. From rock walls and wave pools to teen night clubs and giant movie screens, kids and their parents will find plenty to engage the a cruise.  Newer ships provide cabin configurations that include room for families of six or more via family suites, sleeping alcoves, fold-outs and adjoining rooms. Or plan a multigenerational outing on one of the world’s great rivers.  Educational itineraries and glorious scenery will entice all members of the family.  Contact: www.CruiseCompete.com;  www.VikingRiverCruises.com.

 8. Travel to learn.  More families are viewing their time away together as a chance to learn about themselves, other cultures and the changing nature of our global society. Consider a language immersion program, a cultural exchange or volunteer vacation. Learn about climate change in the far corners of the earth or ancient rituals in the deep riches of the South American jungles. Contact: Contact: www.crossculturalsolutions.org; www.spanishcontact.com; www.earthwatch.org.

9. Train Travel.  Ride the rails with the kids and enjoy the scenery and a mode of transportation that recalls days gone by. From Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express  to Amtrak’s landscape-rich California Zephyr, travel by train allows the whole family to sit back, relax, unwind, and enjoy compelling vistas without the worries of traffic jams, driver fatigue, fast food breaks or concern about road conditions.  Contact: www.Amtrak.com; www.westcoastrailways.co.uk/

 10.African Skies. Check into Little Kulala, a desert eco-retreat within southern Africa’s Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Hop aboard a Land Rover to scope out springbok, ostrich and oryx or float above the dramatic landscape in a hot air balloon.   Visit the world’s tallest dunes amid Namibia’s famed “sand sea”.  Then fall asleep on your rooftop Sky Bed and enjoy a late night show where shooting stars and the Milky Way serve as headliners. Contact: www.wilderness-safaris.com/safaris/index.jsp; www.TravelBeyond.com.

11. Pagett Farm. ME  Your kids can pal around with the pigs, goats, chickens and ducks and learn about organic farming. Gather the family to help out with the chores on this 63 acre spread or simply relax and enjoy the natural environment. Check out the starry night sky before falling asleep inside the luxe platform tents decked out with braided rugs and colorful quilts.  Consider a visit to nearby lakes for kayaking, swimming or canoeing. Acadia National Park is within an hour and a half drive. Contact: www.PagettFarm.com

12. Winter Star Party. West Summerland Key, FL.   Every February, during the new moon week, amateur astronomers gather in the Florida Keys for six days to learn from guest speakers, observe an unobstructed clear night sky and share information with other star enthusiasts.  Hosted by the Southern Cross Astronomical Society (SCAS), Inc., the Stellar Star Party also includes a Kids Kamp. Check the site for dates.  Contact: 1-800-FLA-KEYS;  www.fla-keys.com ;www.scas.org.

13. Aspen Mountain. Aspen, CO.   The Type A members of your family will be eager to participate in the mountain’s new First Tracks Breakfast program.  Each Wednesday, 80 lucky guests join mountain guides and employees  to fuel up for the morning and share tips and tactics for taking on the slopes.  Then it’s off to make revel in those first tracks. On Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays perfect your poses atop the mountain during complimentary yoga classes held at high altitude. And if you like winter in Aspen, well, just get ready to love summer in the Rockies! Contact:  970-429-6971; www.AspenSnowmass.com;  Aspen Vacation Rentals.

14. Arizona Nights. In 2001, the City of Flagstaff, in Northern Arizona, was designated the world’s first “International Dark-Sky City” by the International Dark-Sky Association.  Expect stellar stargazing as well as the chance to tour the Lowell Observatory. You’ll see the telescope where planet Pluto was discovered in the 1930′s and look through the century-old Clark telescope. Further south, check into the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale where you’ll find high powered telescopes in your room and constellation charts on your pillow at turndown. Opt in for complimentary Friday evening stargazing with a local astronomer or a Celestial Picnic accompanied by a pro. Contact: www.lowell.eduwww.FlagstaffArizona.com; www.fourseasons.com/scottsdale/

15 Red Rock Country. By night, the dark skies of Utah provide ample opportunity for magnificent stargazing. Join astronomer Alex Ludwig atop a mesa to learn about star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. He will explain how Native Americans teach their children about the constellations, lancing the quiet night with stories that will entrance young and old. By day, a slew of parks, canyons and rivers provide outdoor adventure opportunities. Contact: 435-210-0066; www.moab-astronomy.com; www.discovermoab.com/

16. Northern Lights From Norway. Because of an increase in solar flares, NASA is predicting Northern Lights activity will be stronger this winter than any time in the last 50 years. Therefore cruising Norway’s coast high above the Arctic Circle could provide family travelers with the opportunity to experience the aurora borealis in a rare and extraordinary way. In addition to visiting ports that provide a glimpse into winter life in Norway, passengers will also be privy to lectures regarding the Northern lights as well as local culture and history. Contact: www.VisitNorway.com; www.hurtigruten.com.
17. Embrace winter sports. Perhaps this is the year to push beyond the local sledding hill and expand your winter sports experiences. Lace up the skates, strap on the snowshoes, learn how mushers round up their sled dogs or consider an ice climb. Go downhill, cross-country, into the back-country and then warm up in a steaming hot spring. Skate ski to dinner served in a yurt or ride aboard a horse-drawn sleigh headed to cozy cabin where you and your family can savor supper served fireside. Contact: www.BigSky.com; www.SunValley.com.

18. China Kung Fu Adventure.  Explore the cultural wealth of China with your clan during this 14- day journey. Learn the art of Kung Fu from a student monk, cook with a local family, check out the skills of Shanghei acrobats, play badminton in the Olympic complex and discuss ancient customs with ethnic villagers.  Stay in family-friendly accommodations that make dining, napping and planning possible. Designed for children six and older, this adventure creates a “mobile classroom” through which families can immerse themselves in the history and culture of this dynamic country. Contact: 1-888-902-8808; www.wildchina.com/china-immersion-experiences/overview/cultural-family-vacation-beijing-henan-xian-yunnan-shanghai

19. The Civil Rights Trail. The battle for civil rights and justice was fought throughout the South during the 1950s and 60s. Today, families can learn more about the era through the Alabama museums and programs that now share stories  illuminating the early struggles.  Important stops include the Civil Rights Memorial Center, Rosa Parks Library and Museum, and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where the Montgomery Bus Boycott was planned and Dr. Martin Luther King once served as pastor.  A free, full-color, downloadable brochure will help with planning. Contact: www.800alabama.com/activities/tours-and-trails/alabama-civil-rights-museum-trail/; www.nps.gov/semo/index.htm.

20.Save The Turtles. Families can help preserve Olive Sea Turtles by gathering eggs on the beach in Mazatlan, MX and releasing the tiny hatchlings back to the sea. Learn how the effort, coordinated by Estrella del Mar’s Turtle Sanctuary and Preserve, helps save more than 50,000 of these sea creatures each year.  This year’s Sea Turtle package, offered by Las Villas Hotel and Spa, includes airport transfers, a tour of the property and preserve as well as other amenities. Contact: Contact: 877-629-2852; www.mazatlanhotellasvillas.com.

21. Archeological Adventure. In Southwestern Colorado, visit the  largest archaeological preserve in the United States and learn about the Ancestral Puebloans who made their home on Mesa Verde from 500 AD until 1300 AD.  Choose a tour of this World Heritage Site that best serves your family’s interests and abilities, from a collection that offers insight into the life, culture and history of these ancient people. Explore cliff dwellings and mesa-top developments and discuss what life might have been like for families in this environment. Later, sample foods that sustained the Puebloans, including corn, squash and beans, in the Metate Room restaurant. Contact: 800-449-2288; www.visitmesaverde.com.
22. Skyline Eco-Adventures. Maui, Hawaii. The fun begins when you join your guides in an outdoor vehicle and travel to the West Maui Mountains. Gear up and cruise through the pristine environment via eight different zip lines. Catch Pacific Ocean views in the distance and mountain streams, waterfalls and lush valleys below.  The company opened the country’s first zip line here in 2002 and now operates two zip line adventures in Maui and one in Pigeon Forge, TN.  Riders must be 10 years or older and weigh between 80 and 260 lbs. Contact: 808-878-8400; www.zipline.com.

23.  A Culinary Calling. Practice your language skills and learn from the pros at the Santa Fe Cooking School when you and your family take part in the Muy Subrosa (  “very tasty” in Spanish ) two night experience at this centrally located Santa Fe inn. The package includes a cooking demonstration, paired with the opportunity to taste other local cuisine while exploring this enchanting and historic town. Contact: 888-984-2121;www.innonthealameda.com.
 24. See Mount Rushmore, SD – Tucked within the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore is among the more famous monuments in the country. The whole family will enjoy seeing the faces of four of the most important presidents -George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln -ever to hold the office, carved into rock for the ages. Hiking, biking, wildlife and other tourist sites are nearby. Contact: www.www.nps.gov/moru/; 1 (800) 732-5682.

 25. Weatherbury Farm. PA. Give your kids the chance to hand feed ( from a bottle ) baby lambs and toss grain to the free ranging chickens. By joining in these morning chores and learning about organic farming, they can earn the “Official Weatherby Farm Kid” designation. Discover how the owners of this 100-acre, idyllic spot near Pittsburg, focus on using integrated techniques to manage their sustainable farming operation. You’ll stay in historic buildings and of course, dine on farm-fresh taste treats. Contact: www.WeatherburyFarm.com.

26. Mary Jane’s Farm. Moscow, ID. Check into a stylish wall tent on Mary Jane Butters’ farm and the worries of the world will melt away. Gather your own eggs for breakfast. Pick vegetables you’ll enjoy for lunch. Visit the library housed in a barn. Burn calories helping out with farm chores. Relax in the outdoor living room area nestled in a grove of plum trees. Go for a hike or play cards or board games. Later get clean in the outdoor tub or showers. Contact:  888-750-6004; www.MaryJanesFarm.org.

27. Leaping Lamb Farm. Alsea, OR. Stow your technology and get to know this charming farm, the animals and the folks who run this 40 acre homestead in Oregon’s Coast Range. Enjoy a leisurely family breakfast in your cozy cabin that includes local eggs ( yep, right from the farm ) and other fruits, breads and cereals.  Find your way to the orchard to pick apples, pears or plums. Lend a hand in the greenhouse and garden or learn about raising lamb and Heritage turkeys.  Visit the horses, admire the peacock and make time for a hike or bike outing on neighboring trails.  Contact: 877-820-6132; www.leapinglambfarm.com
 
28. Pagett Farm. ME  Your kids can pal around with the pigs, goats, chickens and ducks and learn about organic farming. Gather the family to help out with the chores on this 63 acre spread or simply relax and enjoy the natural environment. Check out the starry night sky before falling asleep inside the luxe platform tents decked out with braided rugs and colorful quilts.  Consider a visit to nearby lakes for kayaking, swimming or canoeing. Acadia National Park is within an hour and a half drive. Contact: www.PagettFarm.com

29. Lake Powell. Page, AZ. Spectacular red-hued rock formations rise from water’s edge. Sunny days fade into star-filled nights on this vast blue lake created when the Glen Canyon Dam stopped the waters of the mighty Colorado River.  A houseboat holiday on Lake Powell promises adventure, unparalleled beauty and a host of opportunities for on shore hiking, rock climbing and exploring.  With more than 2,000 miles of shoreline and scores of inlets and cozy coves, family members of all ages will depart with memories to last a lifetime. Contact: 1 (888) 896-3829; www.pagelakepowelltourism.com; For boating information; www.antelopepointlakepowell.com.

30. Lake of the Ozarks. Osage Beach, MO. Visit Lake of the Ozarks, one of the states largest and most scenic lakes, and enjoy hiking, horseback riding and biking through oak-hickory forests. Climb to the bluff tops for views of the lake where water enthusiasts enjoy beaches, fishing and boat-based water sports. Stay in one of the park’s rustic Outpost Log cabins, a spacious yurt or pop your own tent. Contact:  1(573) 348-1233; www.lakeoftheozarksstateparkmarina.com/

31.  Lake Winnipesaukee. Wolfeboro, NH. This spring-fed lake has served as the center of New England family holidays for decades. Surrounded by three mountain ranges, the wooded shoreline and numerous islands make for great picnicking, sunning and simply relaxing on or near the water. Visit local museums, enjoy community theatre or stroll along the beach with an ice cream cone.  1-800-516-5324; www.wolfeboroonline.com.
 
32. Flathead Lake Lodge. Big Fork, MT. Combine a western dude ranch experience with the joys of a lake holiday on this 2000 acre family operated getaway near Glacier National Park.  Kids will love trail rides, joining the junior wrangler program, swimming, water skiing and sailing on the lake, arts and crafts and spending the night in a teepee. Parents should be prepared to join their kids for the family rodeo events. Contact: 406-837-4391; www.FlatheadLake Lodge.com.
33. Charlottsville, VA. Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson is the only home in America on the elite World Heritage List of the United Nations. There are numerous tours available including one designed for children ages 6 to 11. The 30-minute tours feature hands-on opportunities and a glimpse of what life was like for the children who lived at Monticello in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Contact: www.Monticello.org; 1(434) 984-9822.

34. Skyline Eco-Adventures. Maui, Hawaii. The fun begins when you join your guides in an outdoor vehicle and travel to the West Maui Mountains. Gear up and cruise through the pristine environment via eight different zip lines. Catch Pacific Ocean views in the distance and mountain streams, waterfalls and lush valleys below.  The company opened the country’s first zip line here in 2002 and now operates two zip line adventures in Maui and one in Pigeon Forge, TN.  Riders must be 10 years or older and weigh between 80 and 260 lbs. Contact: 808-878-8400; www.zipline.com.

35. Float The Grand Canyon. Whether you travel by raft or dory, for a few days or a few weeks, the majesty of the Grand Canyon may well provide a transformative experience, as it does for many visitors.  This national treasure stretches 277 miles across northern Arizona, and plays host to more than five million visitors each year.  From your craft on the Colorado River, geologically diverse canyon walls rise as high as 9,000 feet toward the western sky. Hike the side canyons, plow through storied rapids, relax on sandy beaches and revel in the grandeur of one of nature’s finest accomplishments. Contact: www.oars.com/grandcanyon; www.HatchRiverExpeditions.com.

36. Hike the Canyons.  Springdale, UT.  Find your way into the canyon country of southern Utah. From curvaceous slot canyons to table-top plateaus, this peaceful yet grand countryside offers a visual bonanza of color, shape and form. Consider the Narrows, a spectacular 16 mile corridor that requires one rigorous day for fit family members. Most recommend an overnight. Better yet, choose the Bottoms Up hike enabling hikers to see the most stunning aspects of the canyon in four to six hours. Numerous day hikes and mountain biking options abound. Contact: www.americaswonderlands.com; www.zionadventures; www.nps.gov/zion

37. Boundary Waters Canoe Trips. Ely, MN. Your family will enjoy the peace and tranquility that can be found within this pristine wilderness area.  Listen to the waves lapping against the shore as you drift to sleep in one of 2,000 secluded campsites that dot the lake region. Wake to the sounds of birds chirping in the birch trees, enjoy breakfast over a campfire and then set out to explore the more than 1,500 miles of canoe routes that criss-cross the waterways. Contact: 1-800-777-8574; www.boundarywatersoutfitters.com.

38. Philadelphia, PA – In this historical city, known as the birthplace of democracy, the whole family can stand on the ground where the Liberty Bell first tolled and the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed. Visit Independence Hall, see the famous bell, George Washington’s chair, and check out the Betsy Ross house. Take in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Constitution Center. Contact: www.philadelphiausa.travel; (215)636-3300.

39. Plains, GA. – Stop by for the Peanut Festival  and get to know the town made famous by former President Jimmy Carter. Visit his boyhood farm, shop for antiques and learn about his Nobel Prize winning programs. Ride the SAM shortline excursion train. Contact: www.PlainsGeorgia.com; (229) 824-5373.

 40. Hyannis, MA – With miles of beautiful beaches and bike paths to explore, visitors will enjoy this community known by many as home to the Kennedy family, a clan famous for decades of political involvement. The picturesque coastal haven served as the backdrop for the now famous images of President John F. Kennedy sailing the local waters with his young family. Contact: www.Hyannis.com; 1 (877) 492-6647.
 
41. Visit Quirpon Island Inn, Newfoundland.  Gather the family in this lighthouse inn, which occupies two historic light keepers’ homes (c. 1922) located at the base of the lighthouse and overlooking “Iceberg Alley”. Outside the ten guestrooms, migrating Humpback, Orca and Minke whales as well as icebergs carried south by the Labrador current float by. Observe it all from the inn’s whale watching station. Contact: 877.497.5673; www.linkumtours.com

42. Broken Bow Lake. Broken Bow, OK. Located in the foothills of the Kiamichi Mountains and with 180 miles of shoreline, the whole gang will love canoeing, boating, and fishing on this scenic lake. With rich green forests as your backdrop, spend a day mountain biking or bird watching then take time to visit the nearby kid-friendly Beavers Bend Wildlife Museum. Contact: 1-800-52-TREES;  www.brokenbowchamber.com/visitors_tourism.html

43 Explore Kansas Trails. For more than 150 years, trails of one sort or another have played a major role in the development of this Midwestern state. From the pioneers and traders who moved along the Santa Fe and Oregon trails to the cattle and cowboys who made their way along the Chisholm and Great Western trails, the history is rich. Today
2,000 miles of recreational trails are available for the enjoyment of hikers, mountain bikers, equestrian trail riders, birders and anyone interested in outdoor fun. Contact:  www.kansastrailscouncil.orgwww.kansashorsecouncil.com;  www.TravelKS.com.

44. Ski Free, Stay Free. Park City, Utah.  Get ready to explore some deep powder at special prices. When you visit the Park City-area ski resorts expect a new slew of special pricing and promotions.  Contact: 800) 453-1360; Visit www.parkcityinfo.com for family friendly hotels.

45. Discover the Colorado Plateau and Canyonlands. Moab, Utah.
Hike, bike and explore along with a trained naturalist guide in this scenic region of the American Southwest, a landscape ripe with history and folklore. Find your way into remote regions of the canyons where few have ventured. You’ll return home with tales and images of some of America’s last great natural treasures. Contact: 800-453-3292. www.tagalong.com; www.discovermoab.com.

46. Visit a Big Island Volcano.  January is designated Volcano Awareness month on this Hawaiian Island so plan your visit then to learn more about Kīlauea’s ongoing east rift zone eruption. Throughout the month, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and other partner organizations will offer guided hikes, informative talks, living history programs, and educational workshops, to increase public awareness of Hawaiian volcanoes. A calendar of daily events will be posted in early December. Contact: (808) 967-8844; http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov.

47. Maui For Families.  Watch whales breaching from the long stretch of beach. Learn to surf. Explore the rainforest. Relax at the spa.  Maui, known as Hawaii’s “magic isle”, makes for a dreamy family vacation destination. Climb aboard the custom built Alii Nu for a morning of sunshine and snorkeling in crystal clear tropical waters. Enjoy a breakfast on board the catamaran before donning fins, mask and snorkel and embarking on your seafaring safari. Younger children can take advantage of boogie boards and water noodles to conserve energy while scoping out coral, sea turtles and colorful tropical fish under the surface. Rinse off and enjoy lunch on deck while sailing back to the dock. For certified scuba divers, tanks are available. Contact: 1- 800-542-3483; www.aliinuimaui.com/maui-snorkeling.htm

48. Haleakala National Park. Visit this 30,000 acre park on Maui, known as the “house of the sun”, to explore volcano craters, waterfalls, a rainforest and pulsing streams. Go horseback riding, hiking, swimming and tap into local history in the three visitor centers. Youngsters can earn a Junior Ranger’s badge while learning about Hawaii’s highest peak and the island’s endangered species. On the way home, stop by Bev Gannon’s Hali’imaile General Store for a family style meal that will most surely be the culinary highlight of your holiday.  Contact: (808) 572-4400; http://www.nps.gov/hale; 1-808-572-2666; http://bevgannonrestaurants.com/haliimaile

 49. Maui Ocean Center. Kids of all ages will enjoy this low-key, hands-on aquarium that offers plenty of up-close interaction and education. Visit the hatch-and-release green sea turtle presentation to observe the animals in various stages. Several exhibits offer information on Hawaii’s living reef and feature marine creatures including small sea horses and moray eels. Learn about humpback whales and team up with a naturalist at the tide pool to get a feel for some of the living creatures. Scuba certified kids 15 and over can dive with the sharks and stingrays in the center’s 750,000 gallon Open Ocean exhibit. When it comes to family vacations, Maui is a home run. Contact: 1-808- 270-7000; www.mauioceancenter.com.

50. The Road to Hana. The trip makes for a full day but the surf crashing on the rugged coastline, the bamboo forests and stunning waterfalls make it worthwhile. Offering a stark contrast to the resort filled beaches on other parts of the island, you’ll find an unblemished, lush landscape oozing with remnants of the old Hawaiian culture. The 52-mile trip over winding roads and through the rainforest requires the driver’s full attention.  Stops along the way for picture taking, hiking, picnicking on the beach and tasting the famous banana or mango bread are encouraged. Consider spending the night in Hana to avoid rushing through the spectacular scenery. Contact: 1-800-464-2924; www.gohawaii.com/maui; www.hanamaui.com.

51. Small Hope Bay Lodge, Andros Island, Bahamas. Check into one of this family-run resort’s 21 cottages and prepare to explore, relax and enjoy a special holiday. Young children can begin by participating in the young naturalist program before moving on to shoreline snorkeling lessons, a snorkel reef trip and then on to SASY (Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youth) Diving. The latter enables kids 7-9 to experience the underwater world wearing a small tank and other dive gear. At age ten, the Discover Scuba program is available for those interested in pursuing the next level. The resort’s on site dive staff will provide scuba lessons for one or more. The all inclusive resort offers complimentary babysitting from six until nine pm. Contact:  800-223-6961; www. SmallHope.com.

52. Visit the Florida Keys.  Explore the only living coral reef system in the continental United States during a visit to this scenic South Florida region.  For kids eight and older: the Summer Marine Science Camp at Pigeon Key, an historic site 100 miles southwest of Miami, offers programs that include information about reef fish, coral reef systems, underwater photography and the gathering of specimens. Kids can get scuba certification during a camp session or brush up if already certified. Also included: underwater obstacle courses, volleyball, and snorkeling. Also in the region:  the Wreck Trek Passport Program,” spotlighting the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail, where certified divers can explore a string of sunken vessels and artificial reefs with local dive instructors. Contact: 305-289-0025; www.PigeonKey.com; www.Fla-Keys.com/diving.

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