VACATION IDEAS

Photos: 16 Best Summer Attractions for Families

At the end of every summer comes a day of reckoning, the time when every man, woman, and child must answer a crucial question: So, what did you do on your summer vacation? We're here to make sure you have a very good answer.

  1. Like most spectacular national parks, the Grand Canyon is plagued by spectacular traffic. Not at the paved Hermit Road Greenway Trail, which skirts nearly three thrilling miles of the South Rim and is off-limits to cars.

    (Courtesy Grand Canyon NPS)
  2. A breathtaking vista over the Grand Canyon from the Hermit Road Greenway Trail.

    (Courtesy Grand Canyon NPS)
  3. A visitor takes a break along the Hermit Road Greenway Trail.

    (Courtesy Grand Canyon NPS)
  4. Forget monkey bars. At Citygarden, Saint Louis's coolest playground is cleverly disguised as an art park, with 24 climbable, crawl-able, slide-able sculptures by contemporary masters including Keith Haring, Jim Dine, and Mark di Suvero

    (Steve Hall)
  5. A sculpture at Citygarden.

    (Steve Hall)
  6. A nighttime perspective of Citygarden.

    (Steve Hall)
  7. Touring the Dalí Museum's new waterfront home is like stepping inside one of the artist's trippy, drippy dreamscapes. Here, an east view of the museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

    (Courtesy Salvador Dali Museum)
  8. An aerial view of the Salvador Dalí Museum.

    (Courtesy Salvador Dali Museum)
  9. Café Helical at the Salvador Dalí Museum.

    (Courtesy Salvador Dali Museum)
  10. Hough Gallery at the Salvador Dalí Museum.

    (Courtesy Salvador Dali Museum)
  11. The trailhead for the newly rebuilt Triple Lakes Trail in Denali National Park & Preserve is steps from the visitor's center, so even the laziest hikers can make it to the great Alaskan outdoors.

    (Courtesy NPS Photo)
  12. Push yourself (if you can) to the outer reaches of the 8.6-mile Triple Lakes Trail. That's where you'll find the namesake lakes that attract trumpeter swans, horned grebes, muskrat, moose, and the occasional grizzly.

    (Courtesy NPS Photo)
  13. A river along the Triple Lakes Trail.

    (Courtesy NPS Photo)
  14. A John Lennon piano at the Musical Instrument Museum.

    (Courtesy Musical Instrument Museum)
  15. Bang a gong, play an African talking drum, or form an Indonesian gamelan band at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

    (Courtesy Musical Instrument Museum)
  16. The Musical Instrument Museum's 12,000-piece collection contains noisemakers from every country.

    (Courtesy Musical Instrument Museum)
  17. In the public imagination (and in prehistory), Tyrannosaurus rex has always loomed larger than life. The Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County brings the mythic monster down to size.

    (Courtesy Natural History Museum of Los Angeles)
  18. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County was built to show off the three growth stages of a T. rex: a 10-foot baby, a 20-foot teenager, and an appropriately imposing 30-foot adult.

    (Courtesy Natural History Museum of Los Angeles)
  19. The Natural History Museum's skeleton crew includes 17 other full-body specimens (many rarely displayed) and more than 300 fossils.

    (Courtesy Natural History Museum of Los Angeles)
  20. Whether you flip for freestyle frolicking or organized games, the House of Air trampoline park in San Francisco has you covered.

    (Courtesy House of Air)
  21. The House of Air is a located in a former airplane hanger in the Presidio neighborhood.

    (Courtesy House of Air)
  22. The House of Air contains a free-jumping area the size of a basketball court (with 42 contiguous trampolines and elasticized walls), a trampoline dodgeball court, and a bounce house for the littlest leapers.

    (Courtesy House of Air)
  23. A guest tests his aerial skill at the House of Air.

    (Courtesy House of Air)
  24. Boulder Brew Bus tour offers four-hour trips to three esteemed hop houses—Avery, Twisted Pine, and Upslope—for unlimited beer samples and behind-the-scenes tours in Boulder, Colorado.

    (Courtesy Banjo Billy's Bus Tours)
  25. Swashbucklers, hoist your sails and head for the artifact-packed St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. This is the only place in the world to display an authentic pirate's treasure chest (property of Captain Thomas Tew roughly 400 years ago).

    (Courtesy St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum)
  26. Other treasures to discover at the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum include a 19th-century Jolly Roger flag and an original "Wanted" poster with a 500-pound sterling reward for the capture of pirate Henry Every, dated 1696.

    (Courtesy St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum)
  27. More artifacts at the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum.

    (Courtesy St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum)
  28. Why stop at smelling the roses when you can go ahead and eat the exhibits at the Heartland Harvest Garden in Kingsville, Missouri?

    (Courtesy Powell Gardens)
  29. The 12-acre addition to Missouri's Powell Gardens encourages kids to think with their stomachs—sampling fruit from the garden's trees and racing through a maze of edible hedges.

    (Courtesy Powell Gardens)
  30. Rows of flowers and vegetables at the Heartland Harvest Garden.

    (Courtesy Powell Gardens)
  31. A blackboard near the entrance lists what's ripe for the snacking each day at the Heartland Harvest Garden.

    (Courtesy Powell Gardens)
  32. Feel the need for speed? Get behind the wheel of one of the 15 racing simulators at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    (Courtesy Sean Busher and NASCAR Hall of Fame)
  33. At the NASCAR Hall of Fame, you'll start your engine, shift gears, and maneuver through a virtual track, all while competing against other drivers in a race projected on a 50-foot video screen.

    (Courtesy Sean Busher and NASCAR Hall of Fame)
  34. The NASCAR Hall of Fame also has 18 historic cars (including the 1939 Ford Coupe that Red Byron drove to win the first-ever NASCAR race).

    (Courtesy Sean Busher and NASCAR Hall of Fame)
  35. Win or lose at NASCAR, you still get a victory lap around Glory Road, a replica of the 33-degree banked turns of the Talladega Superspeedway.

    (Courtesy Getty and NASCAR Hall of Fame)
  36. Imagine that a giant grabbed on to a baseball diamond by its first and third bases and lifted the whole thing 23 feet in the air. That's roughly what you get at the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Lawn, a sloping, 7,200-square-foot swath of green draped across the roof of Lincoln Center's new restaurant, Lincoln, in New York City.

    (Mark Bussell)
  37. The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Lawn is a popular picnic spot.

    (Mark Bussell)
  38. You'd think that achieving inner peace would be enough for one long weekend, but not at Vermont's Wanderlust Festival. A spin-off of a Tahoe-based retreat, the four-day workshop is built around a serious yoga program, withintensive instruction by 30 of the world's top gurus.

    (Courtesy Wanderlust Festival)
  39. Once you've attained your desired level of tranquility at Vermont's Wanderlust Festival, you can shift your heart rate into high gear-with muscle-shaking arm-balancing classes and alfresco live-music performances.

    (Courtesy Wanderlust Festical)
  40. Although the Twilight movies were actually filmed in Oregon and Canada, a red-blooded Edward-and-Bella tourism industry is emerging in the small towns of westernWashington where the series is set.

    (Courtesy Forks Chamber of Commerce)
  41. Twilight Territory: A Fan's Guide to Forks & LaPush, is a photo-filled handbook sold by the Forks Chamber of Commerce that points the way to key locations such as Forks High School, the police station, and First Beach.

    (Courtesy Forks Chamber of Commerce)
  42. A view of First Beach in Twilight Territory.

    (Courtesy Forks Chamber of Commerce)
  43. Kansas City is making waves with a swanky swim-up bar. The Jones, a 20,000-square-foot pool deck and lounge, is perched on the roof of a six-story building downtown and has 12 private cabanas you can reserve online.

    (Courtesy The Jones Hotel)
  44. The Jones has a menu full of signature drinks (including the Bobby Jones, made with sweet tea vodka, lemonade, and Chambord) and a rotation of West Coast and local DJs on weekends.

    (Courtesy The Jones Hotel)
  45. You'll need to develop some fortitude for this one-day photo boot camp in Moab, Utah. Class runs from dawn to post-dusk to take advantage of the exceptional light, but then there's the payoff: frame-worthy images of red earth and rock formations.

    (Courtesy Moab Photo Workshops)

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