10 Bucket-List Vacations to Take Before Your Kids Grow Up

From Disneyland to NYC, every family bucket list has a dream trip. Start planning the trip of a lifetime with these kid-friendly bucket list vacations!

Watching your children officially set off into the world can be a rewarding – if bittersweet – experience. But before they fly the nest, make time to get away together and make lasting memories as a family by adventuring to these spectacular bucket-list destinations across the U.S.

1. Grand Canyon National Park and Lake Powell

The Grand Canyon is one of the country’s most iconic natural landscapes — a prime place to hike, camp and capture family photos against all-American backdrops like the endless canyon views at Yavapai Point overlook. From the Grand Canyon, make the scenic, less than 200-mile drive north to Lake Powell, where you can rent a houseboat at the Antelope Point Resort and Marina. Spend your days cruising and nights sleeping in the colored-sandstone beauty of Glen Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park and Lake Powell

2. Asheville, North Carolina, and the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sunday driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville is a movable feast for the senses and a ride your family will cherish — whether you’re visiting during autumn’s golden glow or the lush growth of spring and summer. Or visit in winter and teach your kids to ski on the beginner-friendly slopes of Wolf Ridge Ski Resort, an easy 31-mile drive north of town.

Blue Ridge Parkway

3. Bar Harbor, Maine, and Acadia National Park

For one of the most inspiring ways to experience Acadia National Park, splash, laugh and paddle with your kids (ages 8 and up) during a family sea kayaking trip along the coast of Mount Desert Island. As you explore the area’s rocky coastline and forests, look for seals at Frenchman Bay off Bar Harbor, let your kids try their first lobster meal, or hike the 1.3-mile Ship Harbor Trail where you can visit the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, built in 1858.

Acadia National Park

4. The Pacific Coast Highway

California’s legendary coastal highway delivers family fun at every turn. Start your trip at Año Nuevo State Park for some giggles while watching the resident elephant seals snort and tussle on the sand. Then head south to experience the quirky surf-town scene at Santa Cruz. Make friends with the sea otters, blue-spotted jawfish and more than 600 other creatures inside the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, then gawk at the mind-blowing roadside vistas of Big Sur.

California Pacific Coast Highway

5. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Take an excursion into Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks on the 3 Day Top of the World Safari tour with Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris. Join the adventure (from early May to late October) as your guide scouts for elk, bison, deer, bears, coyotes and antelope. In the winter, take your family on the Best of Jackson Hole Wildlife Safari Tour for a sleigh ride through the National Elk Refuge.

Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks

6. New York City, New York

Bring the kids to the Big Apple and nearly all the way up to the top of the Empire State Building for 360-degree views of the city. Spot some of New York’s most iconic landmarks like Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square and the Statue of Liberty from the 86th floor main deck—the highest open-air observatory in the city. To see Lady Liberty up close, catch the New York City Harbor Cruise aboard the free Staten Island Ferry.

New York City, New York

7. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island

Pile the gang into the rental car for a thrilling roll through volcanic landscapes along Crater Rim Drive in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can pose for photos with a backdrop of steam vents, tree fern forests and lava tubes. Or set out for a hike with your crew: see steam rising from cracks in the ground while hiking 1.2-mile Ha’akulamanu (Sulphur Banks) Trail, which is accessible from the Kilauea Visitor Center parking area.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

8. Disney World in Orlando, Florida

From visiting Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom to tasting your way around the world at Epcot, Disney World has so much to offer. For some rad togetherness, be the family that surfs together. Learn to shred waves up to 6 feet tall at Typhoon Lagoon, which offers early morning lessons in the wave pool before the park opens.

Disney World in Orlando, Florida

9. Chicago, Illinois

Share some on-the-water adrenaline with your family during a Seadog Extreme speedboat tour of the Windy City’s shoreline. At Navy Pier, families can catch sightseeing cruises like the Seadog in spring and summer, or take in views of downtown Chicago from atop the Centennial Wheel year-round. Stroll down the 2,000-foot long boardwalk and make stops at the Navy Pier IMAX Theatre, the Chicago Children’s Museum and a variety of shops and restaurants.

Chicago, Illinois

10. New Orleans, Louisiana

After your family eats its way through New Orleans, sampling Creole classics like jambalaya, gumbo and beignets, scare away some calories on one of the country’s spookiest walking tours. Haunted History Tours takes you through cemeteries, the French Quarter, the Garden District and other eerie enclaves.

New Orleans, Louisiana



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About the Author

Based in Tampa, FL, Terry Ward has worked as a freelance travel writer since 2001. Her work has been published in The Washington Post, USA Today, Scuba Diving Magazine and many other outlets. Her favorite U.S. road trip destinations are anyplace off I-95.