Considering a family vacation in the New Year, but unsure about when and where to go? Here are 10 destinations to set your wheels turning.
By Shnieka L. Johnson
There are many places that seem perfect for family travel, whether you’re longing for a sun-soaked beach, ready to hit snow-covered slopes or want to experience an old city dripping with culture.
Whatever you decide, here’s some key advice: Plan ahead! You are much more likely to find your preferred travel dates and accommodation (saving time!) and the best deals (saving money!).
Denver is a picturesque, diverse and vibrant city that offers many family-friendly attractions, restaurants, shops, and music and sports venues. Denver has also become a destination for art and culture. Look no further than the Denver Art Museum, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum and Children’s Museum of Denver (a family favorite). You’re also a short drive from the snowy peaks of well-known ski destinations, like Breckenridge and Vail.
Orlando is best known for its theme parks (Disney, Universal, Legoland etc.), but also promises family-friendly cultural experiences, outdoor adventures and delicious restaurants (plus world-class golfing for parents). Consider going in winter, a time of lower humidity, shorter lines and lots of fun for the kiddos. For evening food and entertainment, check out the newly re-energized Disney Springs or ride the 400-foot Ferris wheel at I-Drive 360. For visual and performing arts, visit the “Cultural Corridor”!
A cosmopolitan city with French flair and old-world charm, Montreal has museums and attractions for the whole family, such as the Planetarium, Insectarium and Museum of Fine Arts. And food too; Montreal boasts more restaurants per capita than any city in North America! To escape harsh weather, visit RÉSO, a network of subterranean walkways lined with shops, restaurants and entertainment; and visit the Montreal Biodome, an indoor recreation of four ecosystems (forest, tropical forest, marine and arctic).
The visually stunning, French/Dutch Caribbean island of Saint Martin/Sint Marteen offers white sand beaches and turquoise waters to frolic in with the family. For gastronomic adventures, the culinary scene is superb in Grand Case, which also boasts a lively music and local art scene. Shopping on the French side of the island and nightlife on the Dutch side are also highly recommended. For artsy types, Art Lovers Weekend is a great opportunity to see new works.
Rio de Janeiro is a warm-weather destination with much culture and excitement, capped off by the famed Carnival in February. During quieter times, visit architectural and natural landmarks, such as Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue. For family fun and relaxation, make your way to Ipanema Beach or Copacabana Beach. Don’t forget to indulge in Brazilian cuisine and explore Rio’s thriving arts scene, new museums and nightlife.
Porto is a laid-back river city of narrow, steep streets hiding a plethora of bars and restaurants, and a buzzing nightlife. Winters are mild and a perfect time for walking exploration as a family. The architecture is picturesque, especially along the Douro River, on which you can take family river cruises and (for mom and dad) enjoy a Port wine produced and stored in vast cellars. In February, Porto hosts one of Europe’s biggest annual film festivals, Fantasporto.
Venice is famously built on islands around a system of canals. Winter delivers the mildest temperatures, but February is Carnevale. The most exciting time to visit, Carnevale sees masked revelers of all ages gather for events and boat parades. At other times, take a gondola ride, sip espresso at Caffè Florian (Italy’s oldest café) and ogle architecture at St. Mark’s Basilica. For art, the galleries and museums are amazing, like the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
The port city of Cape Town is rich in history and stunning beaches. Its natural and historic landmarks, especially Table Mountain and Robben Island, are especially memorable for families, as are its tourist/shopping centers like the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, laid-back atmosphere and year-round moderate temperatures. Nearby Winelands cover the hills and valleys of the Cape district and are very family friendly. The accompanying cuisine (try the braai!) reflects Cape Town’s history and mix of cultures.
Hong Kong is a fusion of east and west. The Mong Kok area hosts the Temple Street Night Market, an enjoyable experience for the whole family, as are a cable car ride to see the Tian Tan Buddha or a day at Disneyland Hong Kong. The restaurant scene is diverse, pivoting around Cantonese cuisine, local dim sum, fresh seafood and international menus. Plan your travel around the festivals and their dragon dances, fireworks and parades.
Sydney is amazing, including during the winter (and its summer-like temperatures). If your family loves beaches, head to the seaside, where you can sunbathe and take part in watersports. There are several must-see family-friendly attractions, like Darling Harbour, The Rocks, Taronga Zoo and the Sydney Opera House. To visit during a celebratory time, Australia Day takes place at the end of January and the city’s Mardi Gras (LGBTQ celebration) is in February.
Shnieka L. Johnson is a freelance writer specializing in family travel. She is based in New York City, where she resides with her husband and son.