7 best US national parks to take your kids
Trying to plan a family vacation in a national park can feel overwhelming. With 62 official parks in the US and counting, there are simply too many options to go down the list, one-by-one, and tick off the best options for kids. To help narrow it down, here are our top picks for family-friendly trips in some of America’s most treasured national parks. With towering trees, colorful badlands, rocky tide pools, and epic wildlife sightings, there’s something for even the pickiest city kid on this list.
Death Valley is a great place for outdoorsy families to find some sun in the winter © Armin Adams / Getty Images
When to visit: Spring, fall, winter
Best for: Hiking, rock scrambling, wild west history, scenic drives, car camping
Whenever you read about Death Valley, you’ll often find it described as a park of superlatives. It’s the hottest, driest and lowest place in North America. It’s also the largest national park outside of Alaska by over a million acres, which means it’s a massive desert wonderland for families to explore. Most of the top attractions, though, like Badwater Basin, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Devil’s Golf Course, Zabriskie Point and Artist’s Palette, are only a short hike from the car, and many are stroller-accessible.
Furnace Creek is the main hub for lodging and food in Death Valley, with several park campgrounds and hotels like The Inn at Death Valley, The Oasis at Death Valley, and The Ranch at Death Valley, all of which have swimming pools for those scorching shoulder season visits. The best time to go to Death Valley is typically the “off season” for other parks – winter – meaning it’s a wonderful option for outdoorsy families looking to escape the snow and go on a road trip!
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When to visit: Summer, fall
Best for: Big trees, hiking, backpacking, car camping
Kids will feel like they’ve entered into Jurassic Park when they gaze up, awestruck, at the giant sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park. This park is all about big mountains and forest bathing, and the Parks Service has done an excellent job to making the big trees as easy-to-reach and family-friendly as possible. Take Generals Highway up from Three Rivers, then look for deer and black bears on the accessible Big Trees Trail, which circles Round Meadow. Afterwards, soak up some history and learn about the park’s flora and fauna at the Giant Forest Museum before heading off to see the General Sherman Tree.
Looking to take the family on a backpacking trip? Sequoia National Park has several great treks up to stunning vistas with water sources that are under 7 miles each way. There are also seven park campgrounds for those looking to car camp, plus several more in neighboring Kings Canyon. If you’re not into roughing it, The Wuksachi Lodge, located inside the park, is dog friendly and offers a full-service restaurant.
For interesting wildlife and beach camping, head to the Everglades © Stefanie Grewel / Getty Images
When to visit: Spring, fall, winter
Best for: Wildlife viewing, boat tours, beach camping, car camping
Because they’re located on the southernmost tip of Florida, the Everglades stay warm and tropical year-round, making them a prime spot for snowbirds looking to escape the frigid winter up north. Kids will love the guided airboat safaris that help visitors spot native birds and cruise right up to the park’s most notorious resident – the alligator. Stick around after the boat ride to catch a wildlife show, included with your ticket.
Everglades National Park offers two drive-in campgrounds for car camping and multiple backcountry tent sites, though families looking for epic beach access, a restaurant, and a pool will want to rent a car and stay in nearby Miami, which is only a one-hour drive from the park.
When to visit: Summer, fall
Best for: Geyser gazing, wildlife viewing, car camping, hiking
Imagine the look on your child’s face the first time they see the face of a 2,000-pound bison walking alongside the car. That’s the magic of Yellowstone National Park. There’s wildlife galore, ample lodging options, and many top sights require only a short stroll to reach. The multi-use trail that circumnavigates Yellowstone’s infamous Geyser Basin and Old Faithful is fully accessible for those with strollers or mobility issues and is a must see for any first-time visitor.
As for lodging, Yellowstone has got you covered. With nine hotel/cabin facilities and twelve campgrounds located inside the park itself, there’s something to suit everyone’s needs. We love the historic Old Faithful Inn, finished in 1904, which features live music, a full-service restaurant, and easy access to the park’s celebrity geysers.
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Acadia National Park has a great Jr. Ranger program and plenty of family-friendly hikes © Jerry Monkman / Getty Images
When to visit: Summer, fall
Best for: Tide pools, scenic drives, fall foliage, hiking, biking, car camping
With one of the most unique Junior Ranger programs in the U.S. park system, Acadia is a fantastic place to bring ocean-loving little ones. Hop onto a ranger-guided boat cruise, search for seals, and touch real sea life brought up from the water below, then head to the Carroll Homestead for pioneer games and an official Junior Ranger booklet and badge. Looking to expend some energy? Acadia also has 125 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of historic carriage roads, suitable for biking or those with strollers.
As for accommodations, Acadia offers three NPS campgrounds that book up far in advance during summer months and fall weekends. For hotels, check out nearby Bar Harbor, with options galore, many of which have heated swimming pools and a spa to pamper tired parents.
When to visit: Spring, fall
Best for: Scenic drives, hiking, backpacking, car camping
The Grand Canyon is one of those once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list family road trips that should be on everyone’s radar. The park features one of the most robust paved trails in the entire park system, the 13-mile accessible South Rim Trail, which is virtually flat and perfect for strollers and kids of all ages. Start at the Bright Angel Lodge and continue onto the interpretive Trail of Time, where children can touch samples of rocks and learn about the unique geology of the area. Families who don’t want to hike out and back can hop onto a shuttle bus at the end of the journey and ride it back to the lodge. Horseback riding and mule tours are also a great way to explore the rich history of the canyon.
Though backpacking down to the Colorado River is rated as strenuous and not suitable for small kids, Grand Canyon National Park offers three car-friendly campgrounds, two of which can be reserved in advance. Those looking to splurge on a full-service hotel within the park’s boundaries will want to book early and check out the historic Bright Angel Lodge or the panoramic views at the El Tovar Hotel.
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When to visit: Year-round
Best for: Caving, bat viewing, short hikes
Crawl, hike, and shimmy through spectacular, underground rock cathedrals at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. With cave tours (open to ages 4 and up) spanning anywhere from one to five hours, there’s adventure to suit everyone’s attention span and ability level here.
Stick around for sunset for a real treat, though. Every evening during the summer, thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats soar out of the mouth of the cave at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It’s a breathtaking natural wonder, and a ranger-lead talk helps explain this unique wildlife phenomenon to visitors of all ages.
Though only primitive, backcountry camping is available within the park’s boundaries, nearby Carlsbad, New Mexico offers plentiful kid-friendly hotel options, many of which have a pool and free breakfast buffet.
Explore The Neighborhoods Connected to Mr. Rogers
While you can watch the legacy of Mister Fred Rogers on film – with a 2018 documentary and a November 2019 release starring Tom Hanks – why not make a trip to where you can learn more about the man who liked you just the way you are? Launched in 2018, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” a self-guided “Fred Rogers Trail” marks 15 stops throughout Western Pennsylvania. It connects Latrobe, where Rogers was born, to Pittsburgh, about 40 miles away and where Rogers made a great local impact. Marketed as a three-day itinerary, here are some places along the trail that teach more about the man who known for his cardigans and tennis shoes. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh Mister Rogers had been a major supporter of this north side Pittsburgh Children's museum since its inception in 1983. As a thank you to their friend and mentor, Rogers is remembered here through his show puppets and other belongings. In its Nursery exhibit, find King Friday XIII, Queen Sarah Saturday, Henrietta Pussycat, X the Owl, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, Daniel Striped Tiger and Gran Pere. A Roger’s sweater is on display outside of the MAKESHOP space, a place where children can learn how to create things. James H. Rogers Park Named for Mister Rogers’ father, this park in Latrobe has a statue of Rogers seated on a bench. The public can sit down and join him, keep him company and take a selfie with him. The park also is the site of a historical marker signifying Rogers’ connection to Latrobe and his work as a puppeteer, TV show host and an ordained minister. Senator John Heinz History Center A Smithsonian Institute affiliate, the Senator John Heinz History Center along Pittsburgh’s Strip District welcomed in the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” exhibit in its special exhibitions gallery in 2015. It has the largest collection of original set pieces from the show on public view. Select objects on display are the entryway and living room set that Rogers walked through to begin each show, along with King Friday XIII’s Castle, the Great Oak Tree and other props from “Neighborhood of Make-Believe, plus Picture Picture and Mr. McFeely’s “Speedy Delivery” tricycle. Be greeted by a life-like Mister Rogers, complete with his sweater, necktie, khakis and sneakers.Ace Hotel Pittsburgh This trendy hotel is not only a place to spend the night on your route but also another Mister Rogers’ connection. Based in a century-old building in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, this Pittsburgh ACE Hotel location was a former YMCA where Rogers was a regular member and swimmer. “Tribute to Children” While it’s easy to say The Mister Rogers Statue, this memorial at Pittsburgh’s North Shore is officially titled “Tribute to Children.” It was designed by the late American sculptor Robert Berks (other works include the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial and the Albert Einstein Memorial, both in Washington, D.C.). Dedicated in 2009, this 7,000-pound bronze sculpture depicts Rogers sitting down and tying on his sneakers. Placed on a Manchester Bridge pier along the Allegheny River, as a nod to Rogers’ love of swimming, the memorial has a circular walkway and an accompanying sound system playing Rogers’ musical compositions. Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning & Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College In Latrobe, this center carries out Rogers’ vocation of fostering healthy child development and houses a multimedia exhibit on its namesake. This exhibit chronicles Rogers’ life and work, from his roots in Latrobe, to his early years and subsequent decades in television, up through his vision on children’s education and growth through the century. See wall panels with photos and narratives, video screens with program and interview clips of or about Rogers, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood related articles. Have fun at a “Speedy Delivery” letter-writing station. Unity Cemetery Pay your respects to Rogers at his place of burial within this cemetery in Latrobe. Rogers lies here in a family mausoleum along with his father, James Hillis Rogers, and his mother, Nancy McFeely Rogers, among other relatives. The mausoleum sits atop a hill near the back of the cemetery, with prime panoramic views of the Chestnut Ridge of the Laurel Highlands. Idlewild & SoakZone At this amusement park in Ligonier, visitors can take a trolley ride through Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, an attraction based on the animated children’s TV program that was inspired by the original Mister Rogers program.
10 Most Family-Friendly Cities in Europe
If your motto is "Have family, will travel," you'll be glad to know that Europe is within your reach; in fact, these 10 cities will greet you with open arms. To save on sightseeing, book in advance and consider buying the multi-attraction discount passes most cities offer. If a traditional hotel room is too pricey (or small) for your brood, or leaves you wanting for the comforts of home, rent an apartment through Airbnb; owners typically leave their "must-see" list and restaurant recommendations so you'll have a truly local experience – especially if you download a few local apps before departure. Ready? Set? Go! 1. Amsterdam (Swisshippo/Dreamstime) There's more – a lot more – to Amsterdam than the red light district. In fact, with paddle boats and bike paths galore, you can – and should – give it the green light for your next family adventure. Eating is easy and photo ops abound in this walkable, bikeable, boat-able city. Patat met (French fries with mayo) will keep hunger at bay as you take in the sights, possibly stopping to smile in an oversize Dutch clog – or perhaps with the pair you plan to bring home. What to do Everything is more fun when you arrive on a boat or a bike, and in Amsterdam, that's the way to go. Be sure to swing by the NEMO Science Museum for hands-on exhibits that include a chemistry lab with experiments for young scientists and a bubble display for those that can't resist getting their hands wet. Older kids will appreciate the history of the Anne Frank Museum while kids of all ages will find something of interest at the Van Gogh Museum; just be sure to buy your tickets in advance to avoid the long lines. If you visit in the spring, a day trip to Keukenhof to see the tulips in bloom – hundreds of thousands of them – should top your list. Consider a Holland Pass to save time and entry frees to major attractions. And don't miss Amsterdam's legendary singing tour guide. Where to stay The Radisson Blu in the city is centrally located and offers a great breakfast buffet. The hotel itself is not too big and not too small and with croissants and Nutella for breakfast, everything seems just right. Where to eat Have a steak with the locals at Café Loetje in the Museum Quarter neighborhood. They don't take reservations (or cash!) but it's well worth the wait - especially if you can get a table on the patio. 2. Dublin (Lucian Milasan/Dreamstime) It's not just the Irish eyes that will be smiling when you touch down in Dublin; the welcoming locals will have everyone smiling from the top 'o the morning 'til the rise of the moon. With relatively short direct flights and no language barrier, Dublin is the perfect starter-city for a family of aspiring adventurers. What to do Admire the "doors of Dublin" as you stroll over to St. Stephen's Green. Pack a picnic lunch, romp at the playground and feed the ducks before you depart to see ducks of a different sort at the National Museum of Ireland - Natural History. A taxidermy tribute to Ireland's wildlife is artfully displayed over two manageable floors. Assuming you have some animal lovers in your midst, they'll be pleased to know they can see the real thing at the delightful Dublin Zoo in Phoenix Park. For a bit of (dark) Irish history, plan a visit to Kilmainham Goal; Gaol is Gaelic for jail and this one housed almost every notable Irish rebel. If day trips are your thing, consider taking the train south to Bray to visit the aquarium, stroll along the sea or hike up to Brayhead; you might even pick some blueberries along the way, depending on the season. If mountains are more your style, head to County Wicklow where you'll be dazzled by the gardens at Powerscourt and awed by the scenery and history at Glendalough. Where to stay The modern Mespil Hotel is well-located on the Grand Canal in the heart of Dublin. The renovated 1960s office building has retained a bit of the biz-casual atmosphere, but the rooms provide good value for families. Where to eat Just a short walk from the hotel you'll find Milano, equally equipped with high chairs and a post-work crowd and just loud enough to drown the din of your overtired tots. 3. Paris (Aprescindere/Dreamstime) Croissants, baguettes and crepes, mon dieu! Paris isn't just for romantics in the spring; it's for everyone, all year long. Kids will love the boulangeries on every corner; you'll love how easy it is to navigate the Metro and catching a view of the Eiffel Tower from vistas around the city. What to do Leave the Louvre for your next trip. When traveling en famille, take in Paris' plentiful parks. You could spend the whole day at Jardin Luxembourg, which in addition to a stunning palace built in 1612 by Marie de Medici boasts modern-day delights like peddle cars for racing and toy boats for sailing – not to mention a playground with zip lines and an Eiffel Tower bungee for your pint-size thrill seekers. If the weather drives you indoors (the kids may not see the romance in the rain), visit the Musee de Cluny and go for a treasure hunt among the tapestries. Should your tots be avid climbers, Paris will not disappoint. If your brood is physically fit, the 1,600+ stairs to the top of the Eiffel Tower will suffice for a workout with a view. For a more gentile ascent, climb the 300 steps to the top of Sacre Coeur for a view of the city that is magnifique. Where to stay Citadine in the Bastille/Marais neighborhood includes a galley kitchen and is walking distance to a great open-air market Where to eat Anywhere and everywhere; it's hard to go wrong in Paris! Pick a local café in the morning and neighborhood bistro at night. If you want an atypical but memorable experience, visit the quirky Le Refuge des Fondue after climbing those steps to Sacre Coeur. 4. London (Ukphotoguy/Dreamstime) How could you go wrong in the city that gave us Paddington Bear, Peter Rabbit, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan and Harry Potter? And then there's real life princesses and castles to die for (as more than a few did!). What to do You have to see the sights memorialized by Chevy Chase in European Vacation ("Look kids, Big Ben! Parliament!") but your tweens will love posing with One Direction at Madame Tussaud's. And while you have to pay to see the Crown Jewels (and Torture Tower) at the Tower of London, there are some great (free!) museums and lesser-known attractions you won't want to miss. Ever wonder how they developed the symbol for the pound or how it feels to hold a bar of gold? Find out at the Bank of England Museum. If your pint-size flyers are also fans of buses and trains, you won't want to miss the interactive London Transport Museum, with more than 80 vehicles including a double decker bus and the world's first Underground train. To get your fill of history, visit the Museum of London and time travel from the days when lions roamed Trafalgar Square to today's thriving city center. Last but not least, if J.K. Rowlings is a family fave, you won't want to miss the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studios Tour. When the royal sun is shining, plan a day at St. James Park. Watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and then stroll down Horse Guards Parade and Mall to the lake; watch the pelicans get fed daily at 2:30 or settle into a deckchair while the kids frolic on the playground. Where to stay The Park Plaza offers several locations with spacious rooms to accommodate a family of four and easy access to sights and public transport. Where to eat Don't miss the Sunday roast or anyday fare at a local pub like The Marksman or The Engineer. If you need a taste of home (but better), GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) has several locations where you can get your burger on any way you like – from buffalo to veggie and everything in between. 5. Rome Gladiators meet gelato in this city of ancient history and modern cuisine. The locals love kids, and they love food. Need we say more? What to do No family trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the Colosseum and the pious will want to pop in on the Pope and visit the Vatican. Keep your shoulders covered and hold onto your hat as you look up at Michelangelo's masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Splash in the Trevi Fountain, climb the Spanish Steps, and enjoy a gelato in one of the city's many central piazzas. Pizza is plentiful but if you want an insider's look at the Rome's food scene, take one of Elizabeth Minchilli's food tours. In case one gelato just isn't enough, she offers a two-hour all-gelato tour that's a favorite with the junior set. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, take a day trip to Ostia Antica. Once Rome's harbor city, it's now a maze of ruins that evokes Pompeii, providing ample wandering of ancient alleys and passageways. Spend an afternoon exploring the remnant rooftops, storefronts and latrines – which kids of all ages always get a kick out of. Where to stay The Roma Resort Trevi has spacious rooms by Roman standards and is walking distance to many attractions including the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. WHERE TO EAT For the best carbonara in town, go where the locals go: Perilli in the Testaccioa neighborhood. For a great lunch after a morning of sightseeing, go to Nerone and try to nab an outdoor table with a view of the Colosseum. (Via delle Terme di Tito, 96, 011/39-06 481 7952) 6. Munich Munich's motto is München mag dich ("Munich loves you") and indeed it does. There's something for everyone in this Bavarian capital where handcrafted toys are as plentiful as hand-crafted beers. What to do Start your day at Marienplatz, the central square in Munich's Old Town. Secure a spot in front of Neues Rathaus, the New Town Hall, to see the 100+ year-old Glockenspiel chime daily at 11:00 and 12:00. After that, visit the Toy Museum in the other clock tower, the Old Town Hall. For a more hands-on experience, walk over to Munich's biggest toy store, Obletter Spielwarne in Karlsplatz square or visit Kids Kingdom in Deutsches Museum; one of the biggest, oldest science and technology museums in the world, it offers over 1,000 kid-friendly activities. The Munich zoo, Tierpark Hellabrunn, is spread over 89 sprawling acres and offers kid-pleasing pony and camel rides in the summer and a penguin parade in winter. If you believe in "happily ever after," don't miss the German "fairy tale route", especially Neuschwanstein Castle, said to be the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Where to stay The well-located Louis Hotel maintains an atmosphere of German sophistication, with wood furnishings and rooms equipped with the latest tech to keep the kiddos entertained. Where to eat When in Munich... bring the kids to the beer garden! At Viktualienmarkt, Munich's farmer's market, you can sample sausages and more before settling in at the central beer garden to wash it all down. For the true beer garden experience, head to Hirschgarten for the best of Bavarian beers, sausages, potato salad, pretzels, and strudel. 7. Barcelona (Mapics/Dreamstime) With the works of Gaudí around every corner, you'll be in a state of architectural bliss while the kids will think they've landed in the land of Seuss. If that's not enough, you can amble along Las Ramblas or stroll by the sea in the city that gave the world tapas. Bueno! What to do Barcelona's Boqueria is a market like no other with flowers, fruit, and local fare to dazzle all five senses. Grab some goods to go and then get your Gaudí on at the famous Sagrada Familla. From there, hike uphill to Parc Güell where you'll be greeted by "el drac," a multicolored mosaic salamander perfect for photo ops. For a sweet treat, visit The Chocolate Museum, featuring chocolate monument replicas and tasty souvenirs. CosmoCaixa is an interactive science museum with a mini rainforest and crowd-pleasing planetarium. If you have a little inventor along for the ride, don't miss the Museum of Ideas and Inventions, which will spark their imagination and yours too. If you're feeling adventurous, go shark cave diving in the Oceanarium at the aquarium near the Marina in Port Vell. Afterward, enjoy the view of the Mediterranean while nibbling on prawns and jamon at Martina's Brasserie & Cocteleria. As the sun sets, stroll over to the Fountain of Montjuic for an unforgettable display of illuminated dancing "magic" fountains. Where to stay The Petit Palace Hotel Opera Garden is well situated near Las Ramblas and offers an inclusive breakfast buffet. What to eat Tapas, tapas, and more tapas. Barcelona's kid-friendly specialties include fresh fish, fried potatoes, and bread rubbed with garlic, oil and tomatoes. Try them all at El Jardi Terrace & Tapas Bar, nestled away from the noise of the city in a courtyard surrounded by olive trees. 8. Halkidiki, Greece Okay, Halkidiki is not a city but a region of Greece. Why is it on our list? Because not every family vacation needs history and sightseeing; sometimes you just want to soak up the sun. Here, you can actually do both and go home boasting that you've been to the birthplace of Aristotle and bathed in the clear blue Aegean Sea. What to do Situated in northern Greece, the Halkidiki region is comprised of three peninsulas, known as the "three fingers of Halkidiki." The first and most populated is Kassandra, the second, with fewer resorts and more secluded coves, is Sithonia, and the third is Mount Athos, a monastic community closed to the masses. Begin your journey in Kassandra and avoid the crowds with a hillside hike. Try the Koutsoupia-Sivri trail; as you walk the sea cliff from Sani Resort to Sivri village, you'll pass by Roman ruins including a villa and early Christian temple. Spend an afternoon in Athitos, a picturesque village dating from 3000 BC. Stop for coffee and take in the old stone houses, cobblestone alleys, and breathtaking views of the Toroneos Gulf. If you need a break from the sun, visit Petralona Cave at the foot of Mount Katsika, famous for its stalactites and stalagmites. In Sithonia, the luscious green landscape meets the cerulean water of Aegean Sea; settle in on a secluded beach and then go explore the fish tavernas in Vourvourou where you can watch the fisherman bring in their bounty. To see the only monastic republic in Europe, take a boat from Ormos Panagias in Athonia and head toward Mount Athos. No tourists (or women) are allowed, but you won't want to miss the view of the 20 monastaries dotting the coast or the abundant sea life that surrounds you. Where to stay Stay at the Hotel Vergos in Vourvourou. Family-friendly features include a kiddie pool and rooms equipped with a mini-fridge. Where to eat Fresh fish and local wines are the way to go in Greece. Try Paris in Vourvourou, an open restaurant overlooking the ocean that serves local fare or Aristos in Ornos Panagias, where wooden tables and chairs dot the beach and you can dine by the light of the moon. 9. Florence Sunflowers, fresh honey and chianti await in a city that offers fine dining and fine art that are equally accessible to travelers of all ages. What to do Even the little ones will realize what a treasure trove the Uffizi Gallery Museum is when you turn your tour into a treasure hunt for the masters: Raphael, Rubens, Caravaggio, and Michelangelo. Il Duomo di Firenze, more formally known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, is worth the visit for many reasons, not the least of which is the incredible view from the top of this orange-tiled cathedral. At Palazzo Vecchio, the kids can live like a Medici for a day; sign them up for a guided tour and some fresco painting while you take a tour of your own through the palace's secret passages. After souvenir shopping on the Ponte Vecchio, stroll over to Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens that rise up behind it. The Giardino di Boboli are famous for the fountains and grottos designed by the Medici family; one of the earliest Italian gardens, it's also a great place to enjoy a picnic from Ino you can pick up on the way. It you want to get a taste of Tuscany and its rolling hills, take the No. 7 bus up to Fiesole. Just 20 minutes north of the city, you'll have an awe-inspiring view of Florence on one side and a stunning set of Etruscan and Roman ruins on the other. Where to stay Villa Tolomei, about 10 minutes outside the city, offers adjoining rooms for families in addition to a beautiful pool and gardens. Where to eat Families are welcome everywhere, but two of our faves that come with a local's stamp of approval include Trattoria La Casalinga and Cinghiale Bianco; be sure to wash down your homemade pasta with truffles with some vin santo and biscotti while the kids enjoy an extra scoop of gelato. 10. Vienna (Sean Nel/Dreamstime) Where to begin? There's the opera, the architecture, and the food – from schnitzel and ratatouille to the famous Sacher torte, you'll be waltzing your way through Vienna from morning 'til night. What to do Channel your inner Mozart or virtually conduct your own Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at Haus der Musik. If you haven't had your fill of the classics, the Vienna State Opera offers hour-long children's operas all year with the exception of July and August; these popular programs sell out months in advance, so be sure to book your tickets when you book your flights. Schonbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the imperial Habsburg family, is a palace, children's museum and world's oldest zoo all in one. Belvedere consists of two Baroque palaces, the Oranger and Palace Stables; at Upper Belvedere budding detectives find sport in spotting the mistakes in the paintings. When you've had your fill of palaces and fine art, visit the Zoom Children's Museum and then go to the Dschungel for an afternoon snack; there's a play corner for the kids and comfy couches for you. Finally, take the elevator to the top of the North Tower of St. Stephen's Cathedral for a view of the city you'll remember forever. Where to stay Pertschy, a B&B in an 18th century palace, offers a full Viennese breakfast buffet and kid-loving staff. Best of all, it's walking distance to the Opera, cathedral and more. Where to eat Naschmarkt has been a meeting place since the 16th century and today offers over 120 stands and restaurants featuring both Viennese specialties and international delicacies; grab some takeaway and have a picnic in Rathauspark.
5 Perfect Fall Trips for Families
School may be in session but getting away for a short trip in the fall is a great way to ease out of summer living. And whether it’s a day trip or a quick weekend, there’s something to make everyone in the family happy. Here are six trips to consider which will enrich everyone’s body, soul and mind. Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA This living museum will engage kids and adults in the history of America in the 18th century. The historic area, which is a reconstruction of the city as capital of Colonial Virginia, includes hundreds of recreated buildings and structures, as well as three main thoroughfares – all of which are peopled with talented docents and translators who interact with guests to tell a more convincing story. See the tools and techniques of 18th century trades, discover pre-Revolutionary military sites and weapons, including the newly opened Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop Public Armory, peruse the British grandeur of Governor’s Palace, and explore the African American Experience, which provides a truthful, historical interpretation of slavery – a painful yet fully American experience. Planning on staying? There are six hotels within the Historic Area, including 26 Colonial Houses which can be booked overnight. US Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL Known as “Rocket City,” Huntsville is ground zero for the development of the NASA space shuttle rockets – so it’s no surprise the US Space & Rocket Center is the perfect place to investigate and learn about all aspects of the past and future of the American space program. In addition to the a full-stack Space Shuttle with two solid rocket boosters and external tank, and an authentic, impressive Saturn V rocket with hands-on exploration, other exhibits include the Spacedown IMAX Theater, a Moon Shot simulator, a G-Force Accelerator and a Mars Climbing Wall. If you’re looking for something even more interactive, you might want to book Family Space Camp, for kids between 7 and 18. Here you’ll launch simulated missions to the International Space Station, train to be an astronaut on a gravity chair and make and launch your own rocket. Great Sand Dunes, CO America's national parks are diverse and majestic, offering families a peek into the awesome splendor of this considerable country. And though sites like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite are popular tourist sites, we are partial to the Great Sand Dunes at the base of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains. At 8200 feet elevation, these 30 miles of dunes can reach up to 750ft high. Hiking is the best way to appreciate this extraordinary, natural sandbox, and a two-hour walk also lets you explore the stunning Medano Creek, where you can splash around in a little water with your beach. Get your kicks sand sledding and sand boarding down the dunes, cardboard and snow sleds don’t work on dry sand, so you’ll have to stop and rent a board near the park entrance. Camping is allowed to help you experience the beauty of the park at night, and there are also cabins, a motel, a lodge and a ranch if you want something a little more comfortable. Dinosaur Trail, MT Find your very own prehistoric insect captured in amber at Montana’s Dinosaur Trail. This sprawling experience covers 14 locations around the entire state, which is home to some of the most important paleontological discoveries ever made. The exhibits along the trail range from the first baby dinosaur bones at Two Medicine Dinosaur Center to the best preserved “mummy” of a dinosaur ever found at Great Plains Dinosaur Museum. Want to get your hands dirty? Paleontology field dig opportunities are available at three different facilities. Be sure to pick up the Prehistoric Passport, a simple guide to the museums and communities along the way, where you’ll find history, facts and space to collect a stamp at each dino facility – which you can then trade in for prizes. TreEscape Aerial Adventure Park, Vernon, NJ Mountain Creek, best known for its namesake ski resort and water park, has a new park on the block. The TreEscape Aerial Adventure Park, located on the grounds of the Great Gorge Golf Course, is a heady combination of elevated ropes courses, connected wooden climbing platforms, obstacles and screaming ziplines – all in a green, eco-friendly environment. A six-hour window will allow you to finish the entire course, though it’s not a prerequisite, and a shuttle will follow historical logging, mining and horseback riding rails to deposit you at the park. A separate park is available for kids aged 4 to 6 and allows the younger set a chance to try out about 20 different climbing elements. Older folk can also come back when the sun goes down for night climbing on Saturday evenings. If you want to try out some of the resort’s other activities, overnight accommodations can be booked at The Appalachian resort at the base of Vernon Peak mountain or the Crystal Springs Resort – both which offer amenities like dining, pools and a spa.
How to Explore Your Family Roots Through Travel
While taking an at-home DNA test can offer a guide to your genetic makeup, planning a trip can bring you closer to your lineage. Some DNA research companies have gone a step further through teaming up with travel businesses to provide resources for planning a trip. In May 2019, Airbnb and 23andMe announced their partnership in providing bookings for experiences and accommodations based on customers’ test results and tied to their ancestry destination. In 2017, Ancestry and EF Go Ahead Tours jointly launched a portfolio of heritage-centered tours in Ireland, Italy and Germany. If you want to plan a trip on your own, there are some measures to keep in mind while getting excited about what you might find. Here are some tips provided by genealogy and travel experts on how to map out your trip. Start by Building a Family Tree “The first thing I recommend is for everyone to start their own family tree,” said Jennifer Utley, director of research at Ancestry. “Call relatives who know your family history; add their experience.” Also get your children involved in trip planning. “They also can give a different perspective; they may come up with places you didn’t think of.” Know What You Want to Do Another initial step in planning is to understand what kind of trip you want to pursue – is about the destination itself or directly your family? “A heritage trip is about seeing the sites, experiencing the culture and walking in the footsteps of your family in a broad way,” said Cara MacDonald, reference services manager at the Scotiabank Family History Centre at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “Whereas, a research trip is to find out more detail about your family during their time in that area, which usually involves visits to archives, museums and genealogical societies.” Reach Out to Tourism Boards Mickela Mallozzi, host and executive producer of “Bare Feet with Mickela Mallozzi,” whose third season of her TV series used her DNA map to bring her to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, recommends reaching out to a country or region’s tourism boards as a resource. “It is the DMO’s job to promote their own destination, and usually these people are very proud of their country or region,” she said. Make Appointments With visiting archive centers or government offices, learn ahead of time what your accessibility to their records and reference materials might be, in the case they may take some time for being pulled up, or there are required payments for getting copies or other services. “You almost always have to have an appointment and you have to order the files or boxes in advance,” said New York genealogist Terry Koch-Bostic. “If it’s a book from the shelf, it’s usually not a problem, but if you want to look at documents or manuscripts, then you usually order them in advance.” Check Hours of Operation Maybe you went to a center on a Friday and found out that they’re open the four days prior only or closed at certain times or for private functions. “Always make sure you check hours of operation, especially if you are traveling in the off season,” said MacDonald. “Genealogy societies may be staffed by volunteers and only be open on specific days.” Go Beyond Google While search engines are right at your fingertips, and Facebook groups on geological research, do some local digging into your past. Ancestry’s Utley noted that historical societies throughout the U.S. can provide information on the background of a region or even chapters of ethnic groups with a prominent presence such as Italian, German or Irish. Other go-to sources can include the newspapers of the day, census, country or municipal records, city directories (a pre-cursor to phone books), and records from courts, churches, cemeteries and military museums and other venues. Get Extra Help Kudos to you for pursuing your family’s history on your own but don’t hesitate if you need some guidance with your research. Travel expert Charles McCool, who has conducted family research trips to Ireland, advises connecting with a contact within your destination of family origin before the trip for help. “Hire that person to walk you through the bureaucratic maze, like requesting vital records, accessing archives and so on.” Koch-Bostic also recommends hiring a travel agent for bookings or a genealogist for extended research or a guide for showing you around. Embrace Your Surroundings Along with seeing places connected to the past, Valarie D’Elia, a video travel journalist specializing in ancestral travel programming, recommends building your itinerary around local agendas such as going during a coinciding event and partaking in cultural, religious and traditional activities. “Most importantly, add context to these events,” said D’Elia. “How do they relate to your family history?” Also, D’Elia notes to include side trips outside of the city, village or town you’re visiting. Get Engrossed in Culture Gina Paige, president and co-founder of African Ancestry, noted that culture can be a key part of heritage travel. With those of African American ancestry, U.S. cities can be sources for information such Baltimore’s ties to the Underground Railroad specific institutions such as National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Local communities, too, can help. Paige pointed out that African Americans who trace their roots to the Tikar in Cameroon can find significant communities within the U.S. – such as in NYC, Houston and D.C. “They tend to have networks within those organizations already, so when they are ready to travel, they use those people as a resource,” said Paige. Put Your Family in a Historical Context If you’re finding road blocks with your research, look at your background from a historical perspective. For example, Allison DePrey Singleton, a librarian at the Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind., noted that those of Irish decent can learn about the vast impact of the Irish potato famine, which led to many Irish leaving their homeland or perishing from hunger. “It’s about putting your family in a historical context; learn about what was going on in that country and that location within a certain time period.” Manage Your Expectations DNA trips can bring up all sorts of emotions, but you want to stay receptive in the moment and around others. “Be respectful of the culture and realize that [your] accommodations can be rudimentary,” said D’Elia, “Be mindful you are visiting ancient places and ancient infrastructure; pack proper footwear. These trips attract multiple generations, so be sure to accommodate specific mobility issues."