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Fountains of Bellagio
The spectacle of all Las Vegas Strip spectacles, the dancing fountains of the Bellagio, use highly choreographed water cannons synchronized to music. It’s like a water chorus. The shows are free and attract huge crowds that ring the fence around the lagoon (particularly after dark).
Scaling the Eiffel Tower is a once-in-a-lifetime experience not to be missed. The Paris landmark recently added children’s programming, which has made what was already a family-friendly attraction even better — and the views, as always, are Magnifique.
A slow-moving Ferris wheel where you stand in an enclosed glass pod with up to 25 other passengers, the London Eye is 418 feet high and takes about 30 minutes to make one rotation, during which your family will see spectacular views of London. The ride is breathtaking and awe-inspiring, and your children will keep their noses pressed to the glass the entire time.
Top of the Rock
The views of New York City are arguably just as good or better from the Top of the Rock observation deck as they are from the Empire State Building, with shorter waits and smaller crowds at the top. Plus, before or after you ascend to the deck, you can explore Rockefeller Center itself.
Amusement parks are great. The chocolate is excellent. Marry them, and you have a place north of Lancaster that’s just as close to Willy Wonka’s vision as you’re going to find. Play all day at Hershey Park — a real, live Candyland.
Laughing Moon Chocolates
You can watch Leigh Williams making her chocolates every day at Laughing Moon Chocolates, but it’s the hands-on workshops at this Stowe chocolatier that will have you licking your fingers as well as your lips. You take home everything you make.
Carriage Ride Through French Quarter
Everyone’s first stop in New Orleans should be an exploration of this beautiful, historic French Quarter with its narrow alleys, quaint shops, and flower-draped wrought-iron balconies. One of the best ways to see it is by horse-drawn carriage, where the clop clop clop on the cobblestones will enhance your kids’ sense of going back in time.
Eagle Bahn Gondola
Whether you’re looking for beautiful views of the valley, or a comfortable, quick ride up the mountain on your way to Adventure Ridge, the Eagle Bahn Gondola — the only gondola in Vail — does not disappoint.
Golden Gate Park
Your kids will never tire of climbing Golden Gate Park’s famously steep Drum Bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden or looking for carp in the lily ponds. Then there are the windmills, the paddle boats at Stow Lake, the Buffalo — the list goes on at this San Francisco beauty.
Maid of the Mist
Join fellow Blue windbreaker-wearing guests on the Maid of the Mist for the famous Niagara Falls tour. The great boat’s eye view gives you a taste of what all those barrel-jumping daredevils had to face.
Just 20 minutes to Honolulu, a tropical rainforest awaits you. If you’re a hiking family, you’ll appreciate the chance to walk through bamboo groves and under the canopy of lush vegetation. Manoa Falls cascades a vertical face into a crystal clear pool.
Wailea Beach was voted the best beach in the country, and it’s easy to see why. A paved boardwalk offers a lovely stroll along the Maui coast, and if you’re spending freely, the nearby Grand Wailea Resort offers day passes to its out-of-the-world activity pools water slides.
Occupying almost the entire area of Paradise Island — which is connected to Nassau by both bridge and boat — Atlantis tops all competitors regarding sheer glitz and excitement. It’s the place to wow jaded city kids who think a tropical vacation sounds boring.
Hotel Del Coronado
A favorite resort of “The Wizard of Oz” author L. Frank Baum, the Hotel Del (as it’s known affectionately by locals), is a feat of whimsical Queen Anne architecture on the San Diego coast. When your children look into the hotel lobby, their eyes will go wide with wonder.
Take in one of the most iconic views of the nation’s original national park with a gaze over the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, from the vista point at Canyon Village in Yellowstone National Park. Many other famous vista points are accessible from here, such as Artist Point, and Upper Falls, as are a souvenir shop and an irresistible, interactive super-volcano exhibit. Chances are you’ll be inspired to venture farther into the park and get out on the trails, so be sure to lace up your hiking shoes and bring your sunscreen for some of the most beautiful views you’ll ever see. For more great places in the Mountain area, check out our Best of the Mountain Region Gallery.
The Tower of London
Sure London is known for its beautiful gardens, Big Ben and Harry Potter. But before the London Eye was the king on the Thames, the Royals who resided at the Tower of London brought new meaning to the term “off with their heads.” It was built in 1088 by William the Conquerer; this fortress has many ghosts and legends. You’ll need several hours to hear them all. If your family stays long enough, you might see the famous Queen Anne Boleyn, who has been spotted at the chapel in The Queen’s House (considered one of the most haunted buildings at the Tower ), or Sir Walter Raleigh, who called the Bloody Tower home when he was imprisoned there in the 16th century. For more great haunted locations, conjure up our Ghostly Getaways Gallery.
The National Mall, Washington, D.C.
When you take a walk through the 309.2-acre National Mall in Washington D.C., you are strolling history. The National Mall and Memorial Parks, which was founded in 1791, contains a large reflecting pool; more than 80 historic buildings and 150 historic parks, including the Washington Monument (1848), Lincoln Memorial (1922), Jefferson Memorial (1937), Korean War Veterans Memorial (1995), World War II Memorial (2004), Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982); and several of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution. It’s also where some of the most famous rallies and speeches in U.S. history have been heard — including Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream.” For more great places to celebrate the spirit of America, check out our Best of Americana Gallery.
The Grand Canyon
It never ceases to amaze: The view above one of the world’s most iconic natural wonders, where shades of pink, purple, and gold shine in layers reaching nearly one mile down and 10 miles across. Whether you see it from a balloon, a mule, or a trail hike, even from the parking lot, a trip to the Grand Canyon is sure to impress everyone in your brood and be remembered for a lifetime. It also is a Reader’s Choice selection as a favorite family vacation. Want to see what else made our list? Check out the Reader’s Choice Gallery.
The city by the bay has a vibe all its own, where Victorian meets modern, and it seems everyone meets at Fisherman’s Wharf. Take the family on a trip on a cable car tour, bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, or drive down Lombard Street. Grab dinner at a Noodle Bar, dessert at Ghirardelli Square, and walk around the diverse neighborhoods that make San Francisco one of a kind. Or why not take a day trip to Berkeley, Santa Cruz, or Sonoma.
San Diego Zoo
One of the most famous zoological parks in the world is the San Diego Zoo. It is packed with lots of fun. There is something to intrigue everyone in your family from an aerial tram ride to a close look at dik-diks. The zoo in San Diego is so big, and there’s so much to see that many visitors plan to go over two days.