Vacation Spots

Top five spots to take your kids on vacation

Kids thrive on variety, so all of my picks for the top spots to take your children on vacation have a large number of diverse activities available. Happy children make for happy vacations, and the following places are practically guaranteed to keep your child entertained, without fraying your nerves.

Beaches, a science museum, a world-class zoo, Sea World – San Diego has it all. With a perfect climate year-round, this is a destination for any season. Unless you have at least a week, you will be finding that your family needs a return trip to cover all the sites. Hotels are available in all price ranges, and coupons for the major attractions are frequently available.

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In Boston, you can walk the Freedom Trail and learn about early American History. See the Boston Tea Party ship. Visit Paul Revere's home. In this cradle of American democracy, history is brought to life. Next, you can visit the New England Aquarium or take in a baseball game at the charming and historic Fenway Park. You can ride the Swan Boats in the Public Gardens and visit the "Make Way for Duckling" statues. If it's a hot day, take a Boston Harbor cruise or visit the harbor islands.

New York City has to be my all-time favorite vacation destination for anyone. The American Museum of Natural History is a great place to start, and the attached Rose Center for Earth and Space has an impressive and fascinating array of exhibits. There are always kid-friendly plays on Broadway, but if Broadway is outside of your budget, smaller, more inexpensive theatres abound. Central Park has several playgrounds and lots of space for your children to run off some energy. This is one of the few places in the U.S. where fresh fruit is available around virtually every corner.

Hawaii - need I say more? It's difficult to find a spot on the islands that isn't good for kids. From castle building to surfing, there is a beach for whatever your heart desires. Each island has its own character, so you will want to find the one that most matches your family's needs and interests. Accommodations of all types are available, from condo rentals to expensive resorts to more modestly priced hotels. Kid-friendly food is a mainstay here.

For a more back-country adventure in the great outdoors, visit Yosemite National Park. Not only are there miles of trails to hike, but there are also opportunities for biking, horseback riding and water sports. For the little ones, there are programs to help them appreciate and explore the park in manageable bites. A wide variety of accommodations within the park are available, from four-diamond lodges to housekeeping camps. Outside of the park there are many hotels, some of which are quite inexpensive. With campsites and picnic tables aplenty, this is a great trip for the family on a tight budget.

By Frances Simon