Summer is a season to relax, enjoy the outdoors and make memories with your family. With this in mind, we want to share with you ten kid-friendly, outdoor destinations for family vacations – 5 of them are in the United States and 5 in Europe.
Family Adventure Vacations in the United States
Bar Harbor, Maine
Located on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor offers beaches, marine life, and caves, as well as opportunities to visit Acadia National Park.
Bar Harbor offers:
- Scenic Drives;
- Walking and Hiking;
- Boat Tours;
- Whale Watching;
- Bird Watching;
- Exploring Ponds and Tidal
Every summer the College of the Atlantic hosts a Family Nature Camp in Bar Harbor. The College provides guided activities for each day, including a geological introduction to Acadia National park and a cruise on Diver Ed’s Drive-In Theater.
If you want to experience local flavors, Bar Harbor offers a variety of family-friendly restaurants, including C-Ray Lobster and Jordan’s Restaurant.
Cave Junction, Oregon
Cave Junction is a small city in the Illinois River Valley. It is a great starting point to visit many of Oregon’s caves and the Illinois Forks State Park. It offers the opportunity to go:
- Horseback Riding;
- Nature Watching;
- River Rafting and Tubing.
Staying at the Out ‘n’ About Treehouse Treesort will make your stay an especially unique family vacation. The Treesort uses treehouses at varying altitudes as its guest rooms and offers an assortment of activities, including swings, zip lines and horseback riding.
While you are in Cave Junction, you can also spend a few hours visiting the Smokejumpers Museum or the Great Cats World Park.
The largest city in the interior of Alaska, Fairbanks is one of our favorite family adventure vacation ideas, because of the unique activities available there. Activities such as:
- Visiting a reindeer ranch;
- Dog sledding;
- Gold mining;
- Hiking and nature
- Taking a scenic tour on the railroad.
The Chena Hot Springs Resort is a wonderful place to stay in Fairbanks. They rent cabins and rustic yurt tents, as well as provide campgrounds and RV parking. If you want to spend the day at the resort, you can swim in their geothermal pool and visit the Aurora Ice Museum.
Sanibel and Captiva Island, Florida
Sanibel and Captiva lie just off of Florida’s coast. The 6,000 permanent islanders welcome tourists to share the natural beauties around them. While you are there, you can enjoy:
- Snorkeling & scuba diving;
- Cruises and boat tours;
- Nature Hikes;
- Bird Watching;
Together Sanibel and Captiva have 15 miles of beaches. They are famous for the variety of seashells that wash up on their sandy shores and actually have a Seashell Museum.
The J.N. Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel is a pleasant place to bird watch and spend time learning about the native flora.
Before you leave, remember to stop at the Sanibel Fish House. Their award-winning menu and family-friendly environment are a nice addition to this affordable family adventure vacation destination.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Located along the edge of Yellowstone National Park and near the Grand Teton Mountains, Jackson Hole qualifies as an inexpensive family vacation spot and offers a wealth of outdoor activities, such as:
- Wildlife tours;
- Horse riding;
- River floats and rafting;
While in Jackson Hole, you can join a variety of wildlife tours in Yellowstone National Park, as well as Grand Teton National Park.
The local Snow King Mountain Resort can also keep your family busy indefinitely with an aerial tram to take you up into the Teton Mountains and a mile-long coaster or a half-mile slide to bring you back down to the valley.
Fifteen miles away in Wilson, Wyoming, you can visit the Teton Raptor Center.
Best Family Adventure Vacations in Europe
Aberdeen is a bustling port along Scotland’s northeastern coast. The city overflows with history and the lochs, beaches, and highlands around it offer many outdoor activities, such as:
- Climbing sand dunes;
- Watching dolphins & whales;
- Boat tours;
- Walking through castle gardens;
- Hiking scenic gorges;
- Visiting seabirds nesting site.
Aberdeen boasts of its gardens and rightly so. The David Welch Winter Gardens Complex is one of Europe’s largest indoor gardens and includes an extensive collection of cacti. The Pitmedden Garden is outdoors and completely walled. Six miles of box hedges form intricate patterns across the garden and provide a backdrop for flowering plants. Pitmedden also has a wooded area with walking trails and activities tailored to small children.
If a rainy day keeps you inside, Aberdeen offers a variety interesting museums to explore including the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Tolbooth Museum and the Gordon Highlanders Museum where you can learn about Scottish history and culture.
Located on Portugal’s southernmost coast, Albufeira was once a fishing village but has developed into a beautiful and interesting vacation spot. In Albufeira, you can enjoy:
- Boat tours;
- Dolphin watching;
- Bike tours;
- Off-road buggy tours;
- Kayaking & Canoeing.
Zoomarine, a theme park with water rides, dolphins, and special summer camps, is a nice place to go as a family. The city also has a variety of lodging and eateries, including O Marinheiro where you can experience Portuguese cuisine at its best, and Sr. Frog’s Pizzaria which specializes in Portuguese Pizza with all its cheeses, sausages, and other toppings.
A mountain village located 5,374 ft high in the Swiss Alps, Mürren provides unique family adventures that include stunning scenery and mountain air. In Mürren, you can:
- Nature walks;
- Bird/Wildlife watching.
Mürren does not have any cars and can only be reached by cable car due to its altitude. Once in town, you can choose from numerous hiking trails, including the Children’s Adventure Trail which has playgrounds at regular intervals to keep children interested.
Mürren has a nice selection of hotels and restaurants, including Piz Gloria a rotating restaurant on the peak of Mount Schilthorn.
While you are in Mürren, take advantage of the opportunity to savor Swiss cheeses and chocolate. A neighboring city called Interlaken offers the unique opportunity for chocoholics to make their own Swiss chocolates at the Funky Chocolate Club.
Sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea and the Collserola Mountains, Barcelona is a thriving metropolis. It offers an abundance of outdoor adventures, including:
- Kayaking & canoeing;
- Boat tours;
- Helicopter tours;
- Hot air balloon rides.
Montjuïc, a high hill overlooking the harbor, used to be one of Barcelona’s main defenses. Today it welcomes visitors to enjoy the view, as well as explore the Montjuïc Castle and its gardens.
You can also explore any of Barcelona’s beaches and hike into Collserola Park, and if you are particularly adventurous, you can book a tour to see three countries, France, Spain, and Andorra, in one day.
Stretching out in a valley that separates three different mountain chains, Innsbruck hosts tourists looking for outdoor adventures all year long. During the winter, Innsbruck offers skiing and other winter sports and in the summer you can enjoy:
- Mountain biking;
- Air tours;
- Mountain climbing;
- Nature walks
- Bird/Wildlife Watching
- Scenic Drives
- Funicular rides into the mountains.
All of these activities will take you to explore the mountains, gorges, and parks around Innsbruck. In town, you can visit the Alpenzoo or stroll through Ambras Castle and tour its extensive collections of art, armor, and Renaissance memorabilia.
If you want to expand your adventure, consider driving two hours from Innsbruck to the Puez-Odle region in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. Puez-Odle is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its unique geological formations and landscapes.