So it isn’t exactly family vacation season, but you’re a parent, you think months, even a year, in advance. When three school schedules are involved–not to mention the money it will take to squirrel away for bathing suits, amusement park admission and random stuffed animals–you’re smart to plan now.
The question is: Where should you go?
Whether it’s winter or spring break, here’s our handy guide to the best family vacation spots in the U.S. (in no particular order)
1. San Diego vacation rentals
San Diego is the proud home to a zoo that consistently receives high marks for its educational exhibits, including the world-famous pandas, and Balboa Park, the largest urban park in the U.S. with a collection of 15 museums. With gratis IMAX movies and all the trains, cars, planes and dinosaurs to keep little ones occupied, the words “I’m bored,” won’t be a concern during this vacation.
2. Orlando vacation homes
America’s families have been visiting Mickey Mouse and Shamu for decades, but come spring 2010, a new kid will cast a spell on Orlando: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. The theme park cares about details, enlisting the help of the films’ production designer and art director to spin the fantasy of “reel life,” from Hogwart’s castle to Dragon Challenge, a pair of roller coasters that mimic the effects of the Triwizard Tournament.
3. Chicago vacation rentals
The former city of the First Family may add Olympics summer headquarters to its resume (The official announcement is expected this Friday, Oct. 2), but you’d be crazy not to plan your first visit before 2016. The Windy City stands tall with its picturesque skyline, global palette, landscaped streets (surprisingly tidy for a big city) and family-friendly attractions like the Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier and Millennium Park. Before you leave, don’t miss out on the 96th floor view from the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock Building, the Bean (or its technical name, Cloud Gate) and awesome digital faces on Crown Fountain. Your kids will most certainly geek out.
4. Destin vacation condos
Florida’s Emerald Coast is rich in vacation condos–many of them brand new–and some of the most breathtaking sand you’ll ever sink your pedicured feet into. The tykes will spend hours in the lagoon-style pools, splash pads and waterfalls. When it’s time to crash, they’ll retire to their bunk or trundle beds while you chill out on the balcony with a glass of wine. When mom and dad are happy, everyone’s happy.
5. Yellowstone Country vacation rentals
Maybe it’s been awhile since you were struck with childlike wonderment. The country’s first national park will make you feel like a cowboy, bringing tourists up close with its rugged terrain and geysers. Register your 5- to 12-year olds in the Junior Ranger program, an interactive trip that rewards explorers by schooling them on principles of ecology, geology and wildlife. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to stop and watch the buffalo roam and the deer and antelope play.