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The USA: 3.8 million square miles of landscape just waiting to be explored. From mountains and forests, to beaches and rollercoasters, America has it all. It’s a particularly fantastic holiday destination for families, given the variety of scenery, sights and attractions. With so much to see and do, why stay in the same place when you and your loved ones can experience the Great American Road Trip?
Perhaps you’ve never thought about this kind of self-drive holiday with your family, but it’s a fantastic option, enabling you to define your own itinerary and visit places you never would otherwise. We’ve come up with three incredible family-friendly road trips, so let’s take a look at your options.
Experience one of the country’s grandest lakes, mixed with the highlights of the Windy City with this long road trip which crosses four US states. It’s basically a great loop around Lake Michigan which passes by many natural sites of interest and pretty towns.
From Chicago, take the I-90/43 up into Wisconsin, enjoying the view of vast Lake Michigan on your right. The first stop is brewing city, Milwaukee, where you could visit the Harley Davidson Museum or the Pabst and Miller breweries. If you’re a family of sports fans, you could try and see a Packer’s Game in Green Bay and then relax at the Door County Peninsula, taking a walk around the State Park or enjoying the Northern Sky Theatre in Ephraim before settling down for the night at the highly-rated Bay Breeze Resort.
Continue up and round the peninsula, across the Michigan state border, taking in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the Great Sand Bay, then cruise through the Hiawatha National Forest. You’ve reached the top of the loop now and will start to head down, crossing the bridge to Mackinaw City, where kids will love the Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park. If you’ve time, get the ferry to Mackinac Island, which is another beautiful state park with a wonderful view in every direction.
Back on dry land, drive onto the H-31 – keeping the lake in sight on your right – with a stop at Traverse City to see the Sleeping Bear Dunes and experience the vibrant Front Street for shopping and refreshments. Continuing down to Muskegon will no doubt necessitate a stop at the waterparks or Pere Marquette Beach (weather permitting). Before you know it, you’ll be in Indiana on H-12, passing through Michigan City and the unassumingly-named Gary, home of the Jackson family (though you can’t go inside), before climbing back round, into Illinois, to Chicago.
Once there, you can indulge in the famous deep dish pizza, visit Lincoln Park Zoo, shop until you all drop or – if you’re daring enough – ascend the 108-storey Willis Tower and brave The Ledge, a glass balcony which extends 4.3 feet out from the observation deck.
If we say: ‘Route 66’, no doubt many of you will sigh, for this adventure features on many bucket lists and often assumes one of the top spots on those ubiquitous ‘must see before you die’ blogs. For the thrill-seeking family, the tail end of Route 66 satisfies more than that bucket list requirement. Strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Starting in the deserts of Arizona, a detour off the famous highway leads to the Grand Canyon, where you can stay overnight, explore or maybe spoil yourselves with a helicopter ride over the giant gorge. From Flagstaff, a popular town of the route, this detour is about a 160-mile round trip, but must be done.
Back on the ‘Mother Road’, the track winds towards the Petrified Forest National Park with its eerie, fossilised trees and to Flagstaff itself. However, if you want somewhere fun to stay, start your trip at Holbrook and try out the Wigwam Village Motel, where you can sleep in a tepee. Taking the Grand Canyon detour from Holbrook is a longer journey of 360 miles right round. One of the last stops on the Arizona side is Oatman, a former gold mining hotspot turned ghost town – which is everything you’ve ever dreamed a wild west town should be. Though the real attraction is the mountain donkeys that wander along the streets aimlessly, hoping you’ll feed them.
Suddenly, you’re over the border into California. If you have the inclination and stomach for it, you could take another detour, crossing the Nevada state line and heading to Las Vegas. It’s less than two hours’ drive away from Needles, the hottest desert town in the US. Otherwise, crank up the air con and head straight on. There are lots of quirky towns en route to Santa Monica (the end of Route 66), each with cafes, diners, museums and strange sites to behold. Take Oro Grande, for example, with its bizarre Bottle Tree Ranch; San Bernardino, the birthplace of McDonald’s and home of Bono’s Giant Orange (not to be confused with the U2 star) and then on towards Los Angeles.
Here you have Hollywood and all of its delights: the fun-filled Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Universal Studios Hollywood, the nerve-wrecking rollercoasters of Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm’s crazy rides and Raging Waters water park. You’ll need that calm flight home to regroup and relax!
Route 100 runs through the beautiful North Eastern state of Vermont, spanning some 230 miles, though our route doesn’t cover its entirety. It’s best to go in the Autumn, of course, when the leaves are turning and everywhere around you is a visual cacophony of colour. The Scenic Byway runs along the Green Mountain Ridge and is the perfect trip for the family who loves the outdoors – and cheese.
Starting almost at the Canadian border in Burlington, you can take Route 89 until it joins Route 100 and drive south, past the Green Mountain National Forest. Ice cream aficionados might want to stop at Waterbury and visit Ben & Jerry’s Factory, which runs tours and offers delicious samples. Stowe is another major stop on this route, from which you could take the Pinnacle hiking trail or even be in time for the annual British Invasion car show.
Further along is Plymouth, the place famed for its cheeses and for being the birthplace of former US president, Calvin Coolidge. Plymouth Notch, described as a ‘time capsule hamlet’ is a historic site worth visiting and Plymouth proper houses Frog City Cheese in the Coolidge family cheese factory.
The Route continues past the towns of Ludlow and Weston, ending in Wilmington – a pretty town boasting speciality shops, galleries and incredible mountain vistas. Don’t miss the Historic District – the kids will love taking a horse and carriage ride.
If you’ve more time on your hands and don’t mind a long drive, it’s possible to tack New York onto the end of your trip – it’s about four hours’ drive away. New York…now, that’s a whole other post…
– Roadtrip America – advice, maps and inspiration
– The American Roadtrip Company – bespoke self-drive holidays
– Holidaysafe – family travel insurance
– USA.gov – tips on driving in the USA
– Time Out – the 50 best road trip songs of all time.
The USA offers such a variety of holidays for your family and the road trip is no exception. You can make it as budget or luxurious as you like, depending on where you want to stay (camping vs top hotels), what you want to eat (picnics or ala carte meals) and the kinds of activities you want to undertake.
Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with an American road trip. Your only problem will be choosing which one to take!
Booking a family holiday can be difficult; you might want to kick back and relax, but your kids will want to go somewhere they can have fun. There’s a huge range of destinations to choose from, so to help you make a decision, here’s ten of the best places to go on a family holiday.
It may be a long, long plane-ride away, but Australia is a truly unforgettable country and holiday destination. The beautiful beaches along the east coast (and all the other coasts too!) are perfect for relaxing on as well as trying out all sorts of watersports. Nature lovers are spoilt here too; you can go whale watching and see humpbacks playing with each other or visit one of many zoos and aquariums.
Sydney Sea Life Aquarium is particularly popular with children, as it gives them the chance to see all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures they may be unfamiliar with, including platypuses, moon jellyfish, sea dragons and more!
Thrill seekers of all ages will love Dreamworld Theme Park on the Gold Coast in Queensland, which features many of your kids’ favourite Dreamworks’ characters, such as Shrek, the animals from Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. The park is famous for its ‘Big 9 Thrill Rides’, but it’s also home to more than 500 animals native to Australia.
If you’re on a budget or would prefer to stay closer to home, Blackpool is a classic family holiday destination. What child wouldn’t enjoy a donkey ride on the beach or running around on the soft sand with an ice cream in hand?
Sunshine may not be guaranteed in Blackpool, but there’s plenty to do should rain try and ruin your day. Sandcastle Waterpark is the UK’s largest indoor waterpark, featuring more than 18 thrilling slides and attractions. It’s great for kids of all ages, and there’s a lazy river for all those knackered adults!
When the sun is out though, you should definitely pay a visit to Blackpool Zoo. Set in 32 acres of parkland, the zoo is home to all your favourite animals, including big cats, gorillas, giraffes, sea lions, elephants and much more. Kids can get hands on with their favourite animals in the Children’s Farm area, where they can take a llama for a walk, help groom a donkey or milk a cow.
Kids who love to stay active will adore Cornwall. Here, they have the chance to cycle, surf, camp and do so much more than just build sandcastles on the beach. However, it’s no secret that Cornwall is home to some of the UK’s (and the world’s) best beaches, so you’re sure to spend a lot of your holiday enjoying them.
One of the attractions that you must visit while you’re here is the Eden Project. It’s won multiple tourism awards and it’s easy to see why; kids will love exploring the huge tropical gardens found within the domes and will no doubt learn loads about nature during their visit.
Another attraction that will help you get close to nature is Tree Surfers. You and the kids can try and tackle four different high ropes courses of varying difficulty. Even very young children can get involved, as there is a course designed specifically for them. If, however, once you get there not all your kids are feeling brave, there’s plenty of other activities they can try, such as archery, den building and animal tracking.
Cyprus is famous for its gorgeous weather, stunning scenery and great beaches, but there’s so much more to discover here. Budding Lara Croft’s and Indiana Jones’s will be dying to explore all the amazing castles and ruins – Tomb of the Kings, Lemesos Castle and Kyrenia Castle are just some of the most popular places to visit.
Adventurous kids will also love the Palaeontology Museum, where they can find out more about their favourite dinosaurs and the bones of pygmy elephants and hippopotamuses that date back to before 10,000BC. Children who take part in the treasure hunt by picking up the various shells they can find across the museum will be rewarded with a prize, too.
In terms of waterparks, Aphrodite Waterpark is one of the best. It has everything from thrilling slides to baby pools and lazy rivers – so there’s something for everyone.
The state of Florida is perhaps most well-known for being the home to so many fantastic theme parks. Walt Disney World Resort alone comprises of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and two waterparks. Plus, there’s Bush Gardens, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
Of course, there’s more to Florida than just thrill rides and cartoon characters. Miami’s beautiful beaches are perfect for sunbathing on, and you’ll be thankful for the cool water after enduring Florida’s heat and humidity for a day.
The Everglades National Park is a must-visit if you’re in Florida. Spanning 1.5 million acres, this area isn’t just a huge swamp full of alligators, like some believe. There are many different ways to explore this impressive national park – you could go for a walk, get on a plane and see it from above or hop on an airboat.
Again, lots of families visit Paris purely to take their kids to Disneyland, but the city has so much more to offer. We recommend taking some time to explore the city of Paris and take in all its sights, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and Arc de Triomphe.
Also in Paris is the Jardin d’Acclimatation, an amusement park dating back to 1860. It’s a nice place to go and relax after walking around the city. There is a funfair with a number of different rides to enjoy here, as well as animals, a mini golf course and two playgrounds.
Paris isn’t short on museums either, and while some may bore your children to tears, the whole family will adore Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. Featuring dinosaur fossils, a giant whale and a huge collection of stuffed animals, this museum is ideal for a rainy day. There’s even a special Children’s Gallery with a treasure hunt exhibition, which will no doubt keep the little ones well occupied.
Consisting of seven large islands and several smaller ones, the Canaries is the place to go if you’re after fine sand beaches, mild weather and spectacular scenery. Each island has its own personality and attractions, so it’s worth doing your research before you go.
Tenerife is one of the most popular islands to visit – more than ten million people flock here every year! It’s a great place to go whale or dolphin watching and enjoy some watersports on the beach.
In Lanzarote, you can dive into the depths of the ocean whilst staying completely dry, thanks to the Submarine Safaris. It’s one of the best ways to view sea creatures up close in complete safety. Plus, if you bring your camera, you’ll get some cracking photos too.
Fuerteventura has some beautiful white-sand beaches with relatively shallow waters – ideal for letting toddlers have a supervised splash in the sea. An unusual but recommended attraction is the Museo del Queso Majorero. This interactive goat’s cheese museum is a big hit with the kids and the adults (entry costs just €2 and children go free).
The Caribbean is the place to go if you want to escape the hum-drum of everyday life. Its gorgeous scenery, fantastic beaches and friendly locals make for a wonderful family holiday. The region consists of more than 7,000 islands, so deciding whereabouts to go in the Caribbean can be tricky.
One of the most popular destinations is The Bahamas – your kids will love it if they’re interested in pirates. The Pirates of Nassau museum is both educational and fun. It features a 130ft-long sailing ship, animatronic pirates and more!
If you have older children or would prefer to spend your holiday exploring the natural beauty of the Caribbean, head to Puerto Rico for a hike through the lush rainforest. Accompanied by a guide, you’ll get to see the incredible flora and fawna here, as well as stunning waterfalls hidden deep within the trees.
Don’t fancy walking that far? Take a Jeep Safari Adventure Tour in Jamaica. You’ll learn so much about the history of the island and will explore parts of it you never knew existed!
It’s no secret that Spain is a great holiday destination for families. It’s only a short plane ride away, fantastic weather is guaranteed and the gorgeous beaches are bound to keep everyone happy.
Of course, the many waterparks here are extremely popular in the summer too. Aquavelis, near Malaga, is one of the best. It has rides to suit all ages and the queues for them are generally quite short, even when the park is busy.
Also in Malaga is Tivoli World, an amusement park with more than 40 attractions, including bumper cars, a giant ferris wheel, roller coaster and go-kart circuit. It’s not ideal for older children, but your little ones will have an absolute blast.
If your kids are mad on animals, Bioparc Fuengirola stands out from most other zoos. Its main priority is the welfare of its residents, so each of the animal’s natural environments have been faithfully recreated. The Sumatra Tiger, which is critically endangered, is the star of the show, but there are some 200 different species of animal to see in total.
Turkey has so much to offer – great food, hot weather, sandy beaches and awesome attractions. Its capital, Istanbul, is a must-visit and is where you’ll find many of the stunning palaces, mosques and ruins.
For the kids, there are tons of family attractions, including the typical waterparks, aquariums and zoos. For something a bit different, try Jurassic Land (not to be confused with Jurassic Park!). It’s one of the biggest dinosaur theme parks in the world and boasts life-size moving models of 70 different dinosaurs, a 4D theatre and a laboratory where children can observe dinosaur eggs up close. You and your kids could even try and take on the dinosaurs in the Dino Laser arena.
Any one of these destination would make for a fantastic family holiday, as there’s just so much to see and do! However, we wouldn’t blame you if you just spent the whole trip lying on the beach and making sandcastles. Whatever you choose to do make sure you’re covered.
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