As 2016 comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on familyTravelsUSA and how it has impacted my travel experiences. My initial purpose was to simply share a few family road trips but I can look back now and see that it has been a great personal motivator for me to seek out and share new adventures in the United States. Along the way, I hope that I have provided inspiration for readers to explore new places both across the country and in their own backyard. My kids may not remember every detail of every single place we have visited, but I’m happy knowing that I have exposed them to the great outdoors, iconic national parks, new foods, big cities small towns, and tons of fun adventures from coast to coast. So as you plan your next vacation, consider these 7 reasons to explore the USA in 2017 and beyond, no passport required!
1. Legendary National Parks. With 59 National Parks, and a total of 413 designated areas, our park system offers a diverse collection of sites to explore. Visit volcanos in Hawaii, marvel at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, walk through a rainforest in Washington, snorkel off the Channel Islands or hike in Yosemite in California, or stroll through the National Mall in DC. I love that in many states, it’s easy to visit several parks in one trip, particularly in places like Arizona, Utah and California. You might also be surprised to find out how many sites are close to home. The National Park Service has plenty of ideas and resources to help. Or you can check out these ideas on our National Park page. And don’t downplay the amazing state parks found across the country, which offer unique opportunities and are well suited for day trips or extended outdoor vacations.
2. Water, Water Everywhere. Like to be near the water? There is no shortage of vacation options up and down both coasts, and along miles of shoreline of lakes big and small. Want a tropical beach vacation? Head to the west coast of Florida or the Florida Keys, where you’ll find palm trees, turquoise blue waters and white sandy beaches. We’ve enjoyed Siesta Key, Sanibel Island, Miami and the Florida Keys. Love exploring tidepools? An abundance of sea life awaits on the coast of Maine or the rocky beaches scattered up and down the coasts of Washington and Oregon. Or try the ultimate water vacation aboard a houseboat on one of dozens of scenic lakes scattered throughout the USA. Several years ago we spent 3 memorable days on a houseboat at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. And each year, we always spend a few days at one of our favorite east coast beaches, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I just love that there are so many options to plan a vacation for water lovers.
3. Delicious Local Food from Big Cities to Small Towns. Trying new foods and local favorites is always top on my list when I’m traveling around the US. As a family we’ve eaten Italian food in Boston’s North End, Cuban food in Miami, cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, Danish pastries in Solvang, pizza in Chicago, deep fried Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys and lobster fresh off the pier in Maine.Two of my favorite ways to dive into the food scene are taking food tours and visiting local markets/food festivals. Not only can you easily sample a variety of food, but you also learn a bit about the history of the people and traditions of the area. I highly recommend eating your way through places like Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market or Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg.
4. Best Theme Parks. From the magic of Disney to some of the tallest, fastest and steepest roller coasters in the world, the US has some amazing theme parks. Over the years we’ve made two visits to Disney World, along with Universal Studios in both Florida and California, and I would highly recommend any of these places for family fun. For roller coaster fans, places like Cedar Point in Ohio and Hersheypark in Pennsylvania not only offer more than a dozen roller coasters each but hotels and resorts to enhance your stay. Check out Holiday World in Indiana, which boasts the first launched wing coaster in the country and a huge waterpark (plus they offer free soft drinks, free parking and free sunscreen!).
5. Adventure Travel for All Ages. Got a family that just can’t sit still? It’s easy to plan a vacation that includes adventure activities, whether you want a week long rafting trip, skiing in the Rocky Mountains or just day adventures in the wilderness. My all time favorite was snorkeling with manatees in Crystal River Florida, but we’ve also gone white water rafting and zip lining in Tennessee, adventure dune buggy riding in central Oregon, camping in West Virginia, horseback riding on the beach in California, and floating on the Colorado River in Arizona.
6. Top Museums. Did you know that according to USA Today’s 20 Most Visited Museums in the USA, the top 5 museums in the US had over 29 million visitors in 2015? New York City and DC held the top spots, with places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Air and Space Museum. For a traveling family, you can’t beat the depth, variety and free admission at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC with its 19 museums and galleries plus the National Zoo. And from coast to coast, you can’t go wrong visiting any of the amazing science and kids museums, or spending the day at an aquarium. Some of our favorites are the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the Museum of Science in Boston and the small Seaside Aquarium on the beach in Oregon.
7. History in Real Life. Bring history alive by visiting some of America’s oldest cities.Hear fascinating tales of life during the founding of our country. Follow in the footsteps of famous Americans on the Freedom Trail in Boston, take an Urban Adventure History in HD tour in Philadelphia or visit the National Mall in Washington, D.C. with Free Tours by Foot. Even the ghost tour we took in Key West last summer was filled with history and stories dating back to the Civil War days. One of the most unique places we visited to learn about history was the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center perched over the Columbia River on a cliff in the state of Washington. So if you are traveling on the coast of Washington and northern Oregon, be sure to stop by.
Take a minute to browse our website, which is filled with resources and ideas for planning your next vacation. And be sure to visit familyTravelsUSA on Pinterest, where I’ve gathered thousands of travel-related pins to help inspire you and plan your next adventure.