15 Best Adventure Vacations For Families

So much better than a theme park.

Planning vacations becomes exponentially more difficult when kids are added into the picture. It becomes all too easy to rely on old standbys such as theme parks, where kids are clearly welcome and are sure to have a good time. Parents, on the other hand, typically count the hours spent waiting in lines and exorbitant prices for food that is mediocre at best.

Isn't there another way? 

Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. There are vacations suitable for families that step outside the norm. They take families on once-in-a-lifetime experiences full of adventure and connecting with nature.

1. Grand Canyon, Arizona

Photograph: Grand Canyon National Park/Mark Lellouch
Photograph: Grand Canyon National Park/Mark Lellouch www.flickr.com

Grand Canyon National Park, located in northern Arizona, is one of the most iconic destinations in the American landscape. Take a picture of the canyon, which was carved out over the course of 6 million years, and then have an adventure inside of it. There are places to camp, hike, raft, kayak, and even take a donkey ride in the canyon, which is the best way for kids to explore.

2. Glacier Bay, Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is truly a sight to behold. Not only is there great hiking, animal watching, and kayaking available, but there are boat tours that educate visitors on the formation of the glaciers and explain the importance of the park. These massive glaciers are receding quickly due to climate change, so this one may be wise to prioritize first.

3. Meramec Caverns, Missouri

Meramec Cavern is an impressive 4.6-mile-long cave filled with stalagmites and stalactites that are impressive to behold, but this cavern also has some cool American history as well. Notable outlaw Jesse James once spent time hiding out here, and there are artifacts on display. Outside the cavern, kids can learn how to pan for gold and gemstones, just like the good old days.

4. Sedona, Arizona

There are beautiful red rocks in Sedona, which can be explored by hiking or on Jeep tours. Oak Creek Canyon in Slide Rock State Park also offers camping and a really cool natural waterslide, as well as cliffs to jump off of, into the water below.

5. Adirondacks, New York

Photograph: Doug Kerr
Photograph: Doug Kerr www.flickr.com

The Adirondacks in upstate New York are a perfect summer getaway. In addition to hiking and camping in the mountains, there are lakes for paddle boarding and boating, and rivers for canoeing and white water rafting.

6. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Photograph: fortherock
Photograph: fortherock www.flickr.com

Yellowstone National Park was America's first designated national park, and it's clear to see why it's such a treasure. Of course, there are tons of geysers at Yellowstone, including Old Faithful. There are plenty of bison to observe in addition to all of the other wildlife that call Yellowstone home.

7. Puerto Rico

Photograph: Ekke
Photograph: Ekke www.flickr.com

Puerto Rico makes for amazing vacation adventures. The rainforests are perfect for zip lining and hiking, and there are bioluminescent bays perfect for kayaking and canoeing at night.

8. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Relive the trip that caused Charles Darwin to revolutionize all of biology in the Galapagos Islands. There is incredible biodiversity to explore on land and in the sea through diving or snorkeling. 

9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

The mountains in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are perfect for hiking as a family, and there are trails for biking or horseback riding. Need to cool off? Hit up a waterfall and take in the amazing scenery.

10. Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado is perfect for adventures like white water rafting, hot air balloon rides, biking, and hiking. The mountain scenery is a perfect background to a great family vacation.

11. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a great place to bring a new twist to a tropical vacation. There are wildlife preserves to visit leopards, toucans, snakes, and other animals, in addition to white water rafting, tours of coffee production, and some amazing waterfalls. 

12. St. John - US Virgin Islands

St. John has pristine beaches and crystal clear waters that are begging to be explored via kayak, diving, and snorkeling. There is also protected national forest perfect for hiking through.

13. Zion National Park, Utah

Utah is one of the most underrated place for adventure, and Zion National Park highlights many reasons why. There is plenty of space for climbing, canyoneering, hiking, and even horseback riding. The Virgin River is also perfect for canoeing and white water rafting.

14. Silver Lake State Park, Michigan

Silver Lake State Park is on the coast of Lake Michigan, and includes over 2,000 acres of dunes perfect for sandboardin. There are areas for dune buggies and other off road vehicles, plus plenty of trails for hiking or biking. Sail on Lake Michigan or kayak on the crystal clear waters of Silver Lake

15. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park has it all: mountains, glaciers, huge sequoia trees, and so much more. The possibilities for exploration here are endless.