Last month I wrote an article for Proozy, an online active wear company. I thought I’d share it on here for those of you that haven’t read it and want to start planning your next family vacation.
Top 10 Family Camping and Adventure Vacations
I’ve got 10 fantastic family oriented week long adventures that are must dos here on American soil. My family and I have been on a 14 month long epic road trip. We sold our house, bought an RV, and hit the road with a goal to visiting all 50 states over a two year period. Our adventure has taken us from Georgia, across the southern states to California, up to the Pacific Northwest and through the mid-west. We are currently visiting, Missouri, the 29th state on our list. We love inspiring others to see what our great country has to offer by traveling with their loved ones. When asked what our top ten favorite spots have been, we all have a different answer because we all have different viewpoints on what makes a perfect vacation spot for us. If you are trying to plan out your next week long family vacation, let me ask you a question. Which of the following scenarios do you relate most to?
1. Want to take the family hiking among magnificent geological wonders?
Then plan your vacation for Southern Utah. Southern Utah has what they call the ‘Mighty 5’ that consists of the five best National Parks in Utah and they can all be seen in one week. You will walk though slot canyons and rivers, see mountains and cliffs, and hike next to spires, fins, and arches, all while spotting wildlife and making family memories for a lifetime. I recommend starting in Zion National Park and spending two nights either in the campground or the small town at the southern entrance to the park. Be sure to hike the Narrows and Angels Landing. Then head northeast two hours to Bryce Canyon National Park where you can spend two nights there as well. Here, you will want to drive to all the viewpoints to see The Amphitheater from all angels. Make time to hike the Queen’s Garden and Navajos Trail to see the HooDoos up close. Next drive 2 1/2 hours via Scenic Byway 12 through the Grand Staircase to Capitol Reef National Park. You only need to spend one night here because the park is small. Stop by the visitors center to see what fruit is in season and head to the orchard. After eating fresh apples or peaches, stop by the petroglyphs on your way to Hickman’s Bridge trail. Don’t forget to buy a fresh baked pie on your way out. From Capitol Reef drive to Moab, UT. If you are in a car, take the 3 hour scenic route. If you are in a large RV, take the highway. From Moab you will visit the last two of the Mighty 5, Canyonlands and Arches National parks. Canyonlands is 45 minutes away from Moab, so plan a day trip out there and visit Islands in the Sky. Spend your last full day in Arches National Park. Start your day by hiking to Delicate Arch, have a picnic lunch at Sand Dune Arch and watch the sunset from Devil’s Garden. Of course each of these parks are worthy of a week on their own but by getting a taste of each one you will know which one to come back to in the future.
2. Does spending days running around riding roller coasters sound like a perfect family bonding experience?
Then plan an amusement park marathon. If you live on the East coast, head to Disney Fort Wilderness in Orlando, FL. Plan four days visiting Walt Disney World and two days at Universal of Orlando. Buy the four day base ticket for Walt Disney World and spend one day in each of their four parks. Then spend one day at each of Universal’s lands if you want the full Harry Potter experience. If not, just spend one day at Universal and skip Islands of Adventure. If you live on the west coast, head to Orangeland RV Park in Anaheim, CA (no tent camping) or stay at one of the hotels near by. Here I would spend two day’s at Disneyland and two days at Universal. The other days I suggest heading over to Knott’s Berry Farm to visit the amusement park that inspired Walt Disney and spend a day walking around the first amusement park in America. Finally spend an afternoon at Santa Monica Pier and watch the sunset set from the Ferris wheel. It’s not called a marathon because it’s easy, if your family has a ton of energy, do it!
3. Picturing the family with big smiles on their face while flying a kite on the beach?
Then plan a vacation to the best coast line in America, the Oregon Coast. Spend your first 3 days in Bandon, OR then head up to Cannon Beach, OR to finish out the week. The small town of Bandon has so much to offer. Spend your first evening on the beach with the kites in front of Face Rock watching the sunset. The next day, visit the lighthouse and take a horseback ride on the beach, and finish the night at Tony’s Crabshack for dinner. Plan for your last day to be on a Friday so you can walk through the labyrinth at Circles on the Sand after you get the most delicious ice cream from Face Rock Creamery. The second half of your week, drive the five hours up to Cannon Beach. Head out to Haystack Rock and learn all about he Puffins. Drive up the coast to Astoria and spend the day exploring the end of the Lewis and Clark trail and the sunken ship on the beach at Fort Stevens. The last day I recommend spending the day at Ecola State Park walking on the beach and spotting Elk.
4. Looking to the sky for inspiration?
Then plan a week camping at Big Ben National Park in Texas. It is is my favorite park to star gaze. Snuggling up with your family while pointing out constellations is always a memory worth making. This park as won awards for the best Dark Skies and in addition is full of diverse landscape during the day. You will see desert, river and mountain scenery at every turn. Bring your hiking boots and sense of adventure as well as your passport. That’s right, you can row across the Rio Grande from inside the park, hop on a donkey and ride into Boquillas Mexico for a taco lunch. This vacation is sure to be a favorite for everyone in your family.
5. Do you have a tree hugger in your family?
Then a trip to the Sequioa and Kings Canyon National park is must. The Giant Forest is what makes Sequoia National Park famous. They have five of the largest trees on the planet inside this park. The General Sherman is the largest, by volume, in the world. It really is stunning to see. On your way out to General Sherman trail, stop at a more secluded pull out to get a more personal experience with the trees and get your first hug in. Right after entering the Forest of Giants look for a pull off on the right. We were able to touch and hug the trees here. The trail at General Sherman is fenced to protect the trees from the millions of people that visit each year. Check in at the visitors center and ask about ranger led programs and attend one to learn about the history of this forest. Plan to spend a full day hiking to Moro Rock, where you will climb 400 stairs to a magnificent viewpoint. The kids will love it!
6. Want to dress up in period costumes and walk the streets of one of America’s first settlements?
Then hop in a time machine and head to Williamsburg, VA. I recommend Colonial Williamsburg as a great place for a family vacation, regardless of the age of your kids. I do think, however, that it’s ideal for families with school-aged children, especially if those children have spent some time studying the American Revolution in school. They offer special 30 minute orientation tours for families at 10:30am and 11:30am daily. The nature of this living museum makes it easy for you to vary your pace and activities throughout the day. You can move from a house or building tour to a live demonstration of a trade at your own pace. Plan to spend a day at Jamestown and Yorktown to round out the historical significance of this area. The kids will be excited if you balance out the historical side of things by including a 21st-century activity, like spending a day at Busch Gardens Amusement park.
7. Want to escape to another planet?
Then chose to spend a week at Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is the oldest and best national park in our country, I have the hat to prove it. It truly looks and smells like you have landed on other planet when you drive into this park with it’s geysers, mud pots and hot springs. The park is huge ,so to make it manageable you can divide it up into 4 sections to tackle it over 4- 5 days. Each day we entered a new area, it was as if we were entering an entirely new park. The diversity is astounding. One day spend the whole day in Old Faithful village, studying the thermal features along the 2 mile long boardwalk. The kids can work on their Junior Ranger badges while you wait for Old Faithful to erupt. On the second day, after stopping at Steamboat Geyser, head to Mammoth Hot Springs, where you are guaranteed to see Elk and to see travertine formations. Spend day three at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Artist point by hiking Uncle Tom’s trail. And on the fourth day, drive pass the continental Divide at Isa Lake on your way to Grant Village and Canyon Village. You’ll see West thumb lake from this area. You will see wildlife galore in this park which is a highlight at any age. The roughly 5,500 bison that live in Yellowstone today constitute the nation’s largest and oldest free-range herd. If the kids still haven’t had enough wildlife, top off your trip to a visit to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center where they can hide food for the Grizzly bears and then watch them search for it.
8. Does picnicking at the base of the most beautiful mountain range in our county, while spotting moose, sound relaxing?
Then plan to spend a whole week in Jackson Hole, WY. Warning- you may never want to leave. Get the total western experience this week by eating at a chuckwagon, attending a rodeo and spotting bears, bison, moose and elk. The family at Bar J’s Chuckwagon has been putting on a dinner and show for over 40 years and they do it right. I highly recommend reserving one of your nights for this event. The next night, dress up in your western gear and head to the Jackson Hole Rodeo for an experience of a lifetime. The Grand Teton national park is located between Jackson, WY and Yellowstone National Park. The Teton Range has more than twelve peaks at elevations greater than 12,000 feet, with its highest peak reaching 13,770 feet. They are the youngest range in the Rocky Mountain chain and a natural phenomenon. As the earth split along a fault line, the mountains rose and the valley sank forming this jagged mountain range. Hike the Schwabacher’s Landing at noon and eat your lunch by the river and look for moose. Take a boat ride on Jenny Lake so you can hike to Hidden Falls up to Inspiration point. Drive out to Mormon Road to see the most photographed barn in the world. It’s a great place to reflect on our nations history of pioneers settling here and farming with a limited growing season.
If you have two weeks then combine Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole, WY into one trip.
9. Do you like small towns with beautiful waterfalls and rivers for kayaking? What about Sturgeon fishing and base jumping?
Then Twin Falls, Idaho is the place for you. Seriously, it’s a hidden treasure. This is the only place in the US that you can legally BASE jump without a permit. The visitor center at the Perrine Bridge is a great place to start your vacation because you can find information on local attractions and learn more about the bridge, the rim trail and the BASE jumping history. The next day, drive out to the ‘Little Niagara of the West’, Shoshone Falls. This waterfall is 212 feet tall, taller than Niagara Falls. From this parking lot you can hike to the famous Evel Knievel jump site via a 4 mile paved trail and have views of the waterfall the whole time. Spend a day educating the kids on the Japanese American relocation camps that popped up in 7 states across America, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, by visiting Minidoka National Historic site which is about 25 minutes from Twin Falls, ID. Twin Falls has a Centennial Park at the base of the the gorge right next to the Snake River where you can rent kayaks and boats to go Sturgeon fishing. On the drive down the park, stop half way and walk a short distance to a beautiful waterfall that you can walk behind but be prepared to get slightly wet. There is always something magical about walking behind waterfalls and kids are always draw towards water.
10. Are you a nature lover that has also wants to educated your kids about Native American History and our nations forefathers?
Then Rapid City, SD is where you will want to spend an entire week exploring. As you approach Mount Rushmore you will want to jump out of car and take a picture but just wait until you get closer, the view only gets better. Hike the Presidential Trail for a closer view, then get a bite to eat at the cafe while looking up at our four most influential presidents. Top off your visit by staying until night fall and attending the lighting program. The next day drive out to Badlands National Park and hike among the desolate canyons at Door Trail. This park is 244,000 acres of buttes, pinnacles, spires, and canyons. You’ll want to spend a day exploring one of the longest and most complex cave systems in the world at Wind Cave National Park. Above ground you can see bison, elk and prairie dogs, below ground you can see special cave formations, like box works. One night, plan a few hours at The Crazy Horse Monument and watch the laser light-show after sunset. You can fit in other amazing family friendly activities near Rapid city, like seeing Bison at Custer State Park, watching a wild west show on the streets of Deadwood and playing in the fountains in the downtown area, if you plan ahead.