Summer is almost upon us, which means your kids will have a few months of free time to fill. Instead of going stir-crazy at home, book a vacation that will keep everyone occupied and happy. While almost any destination can be family-friendly if you try hard enough, there are some spots that lend themselves well to young travelers (and their parents). From the Mile High City of Denver to the beaches of Malta, here are ten of the best places in the world to travel with kids this summer.
The entirety of Colorado makes for an amazing family vacation in the summertime, but this year you should set your sights on the thriving city of Denver. The rapidly-expanding capital boasts amazing weather, a great baseball stadium in Coors Field and the popular Children’s Museum of Denver. It’s also a quick drive into the Rocky Mountains, where you can find cool little towns like Idaho Springs (check out the tours of Argo Gold Mine and Mill). Don’t miss the Denver Zoo, Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park and Dinosaur Ridge, where young visitors can touch actual dinosaur bones. Book The Curtis, a unique hotel with themed floors that welcomes families. The Kimpton Hotel Born Denver is another good bet, where kids under 18 stay free.
San Diego, California
San Diego offers the excitement of a city with the relaxation of a beach destination. For younger kids there’s Sea World, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and Legoland, while older kids will get a kick out of Coronado Island and Torrey Pines Natural Reserve. Take in a baseball game at Petco Park or take a drive north to Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange Country. Be sure to stroll through the Gaslamp Quarter, a historical neighborhood with a variety of dining options. For beach hangs, try La Jolla Shores, a one-mile stretch with lifeguards, toilets and picnic areas. Hotel del Coronado is the favorite hotel resort, with a family pool and kids program for those ages 4 to 12, but the Hilton San Diego Bayfront might be your pick if you want something walking distance from downtown.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
A visit to Puerto Rico is a good way to help as the U.S. commonwealth continues to recover from Hurricane Maria. It’s a short flight from the East Coast and it doesn’t require a passport (and your cell phone will work normally), so the logistics are fairly easy. San Juan is a historic city with lots to see, but you can also just hang out on the beach. Check out Old San Juan, El Morro and the Castillo de San Cristobal, or head inland to explore the El Yunque Rainforest, a destination best for older kids and teens. Book into the newly renovated Caribe Hilton, a waterfront resort with a kids’ pool and daily activities program. From the hotel, there’s swimming, snorkeling and kayaking only steps away.
Older kids and teens will love a summer trip to Washington, D.C., to see the monuments and experience the free Smithsonian museums. Don’t miss the FDR memorial, the best of the presidential monuments, preferably seen at dusk, and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is a must-do. The International Spy Museum is popular with young visitors, but it’s the somber, memorable United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that is an essential visit for everyone who comes to D.C. Take a day trip to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia to see an 18th-century living museum. The summers in D.C. are hot and humid, so book a hotel with a pool, like the centrally located Holiday Inn Washington – Capitol. For a splurge, the Four Seasons Washington, D.C. has lots of luxury amenities for kids and adults alike.
London might seem like an obvious choice, but the British capital is an ideal spot for families with kids of all ages. Harry Potter fans will obviously want to pay a visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden, which recently got a Gringotts expansion, and there are tons of walking tours that spot locations from the films. There are also plenty of whimsically themed high tea experiences (try the Mad Hatters Tea Party at the Sanderson) and endless free museums, including the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. Catch a showing of The Lion King or Hamilton before riding the famous London Eye. To sleep, splurge on a room at the Mandarin Oriental (which has a kids’ buffet at breakfast) or book the more affordable Lincoln Plaza London, a Hilton property with a pool.
For some visitors, Brussels is a smaller, less crowded version of Paris. But the Belgian city also has its own unique delights, many of which are perfect for families with kids. The city is walkable and easy to navigate, especially the historic center, and the food is great for picky eaters since you can find pizza, fries and delicious local cookies called speculoos on every corner. It’s a short trek to the Atomium, a futuristic structure first created for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, where you’ll find Mini-Europe. There are also plenty of parks—look for Brussels Park, located in front of the Royal Palace—and numerous family-friendly eateries. Older kids will appreciate the Magritte Museum, as well as the Belgian Comic Strip Center, which is all about the art of the comic strip. Stay in the Hotel Amigo, a luxury property that offers a kids concierge and special kid-sized robes and slippers.
Part of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Akumal is a lesser known beachside town not far from Tulum. Its pristine, white sand beaches are draw enough for kids, but the destination also offers plenty to do without all the tourist crowds of Cancun. Visit Aktun-Chen Park, which features an underground river, zip-line and cave tour, or head to see the famous Tulum ruins. The Akumal Monkey Sanctuary & Rescued Animals, where you can interact with adorable creatures like spider monkeys and lemurs, is also immensely popular with kids. There are lots of individual vacation rentals around Akumal if you prefer a kitchen and separate bedrooms, or book into Las Villas Akumal, which has a kids pool and free snorkel gear.
The Mediterranean island of Malta is an affordable, fun spot to bring kids, especially when it’s warm enough to enjoy the beaches. The capital of Valletta is a good starting point, although it’s easy to get around the entire island during your visit, and children will be into the Toy Museum and the Fun Train, which runs throughout Malta to various popular destinations. Don’t miss the Upper Barrakka Gardens, St. George’s Bay and the Mediterraneo Marine Park, which puts on shows with dolphins and sea lions. Some of the resorts are adults-only, but Valletta’s cool boutique hotels welcome families, including Palais Le Brun, where you can book a family suite. For a beach resort outside the city, try the db Seabank All-Inclusive Resort & Spa, an all-inclusive with family rooms.
Tokyo is a very welcoming destination for families, with many restaurants, hotels and activities specifically catering to young travelers. Your first stop should be Tokyo Disney Resort, which has several of its own hotels, but once you’ve ticked that off your list, focus on the more unique possibilities in the city. Visit the immersive art experience at teamLab Planets (which you’ve definitely seen on Instagram and should book in advance), and pay a visit to the Ueno Zoo in Ueno Park. There are dozens of pet cafés around town, particularly in Harajuku, but check whether they have an age minimum for visitors in advance. Wander around Shibuya, which has tons of kid-friendly shops and eateries, and trendy Daikanyama, before venturing to Puroland, an indoor theme park centered on Hello Kitty. Pick a hotel near a train or metro station, like the Shinjuku Washington Hotel, which has triple rooms ideal for bigger families.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Technically, you’ll be heading to Queenstown in the winter, since New Zealand has opposing seasons to the U.S. But what better way to get your kids excited than to take advantage of the south island’s winter sports and activities in the middle of August? There’s skiing, ice skating and wintertime boating on Lake Wakatipu, and the annual Queenstown Winter Festival takes place in June, featuring live music, activities and fireworks. The best part is that winter is considered off-season in New Zealand, which means the hotels are cheaper and the restaurants less crowded. Snag a lake view room at the Mercure Resort Queenstown, and then take the kids for lunch at Fergburger, which serves the actual best burgers in the world.