Kid-Friendly U.S. Destinations That You Will Love

When you are planning a vacation to take your kids on , you probably think of sun and sand first. Even though you can have a truly great time relaxing on the beach watching your children build sand castles, there are still plenty of other, out­of­the­box, exciting experiences to enjoy. Having said that, we picked out a few places that could be a great choice for your next family vacation and the best part ­ they are just a drive or flight away!

Laguna Beach, Southern California

Located in Orange County, Laguna Beach is mostly known for its sandy beaches and vibrant artist community. If your kids like sports, Laguna beach community services organizes tons of aquatic courses aimed at children 4 years and older.. In case of rain, head to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center,  where rescued marine mammals find a place to call home. There are a lot of educational programs for kids at the Pacific MMC as well. . The city also hosts two annual Art festivals. The Festival of Arts (July- August), features 140 local artists, concerts and special events, some designed exclusively for kids.

The Sawdust Art & Craft Festival, (November­December and June­August) is designed both to entertain and educate, with art classes available to your kids and you. During the entire year, Laguna Outreach Community Arts, LOCA, also provides a variety of fun, affordable art workshops for all ages.

Orlando, Florida

There is no ocean in Orlando, but you’ll hardly notice, because this city in central Florida offers a whole world of waterparks. Walt Disney World Resorts hosts Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Both of which have dedicated kids’ sections, with small­size slides and shallow water.

Aquatica is a South Seas­themed waterpark ; its unique feature is the presence of living animals ­ birds, dolphins and tropical fish. If you are looking for a different type of adventure, head to Discovery Cove, an educational water park where you can swim with dolphins, meet with otters and get in touch with tropical birds. Kids ages 6 and older are welcome to participate in most of the activities.

Falmouth, Massachussets

Located on Cape Cod, Falmouth has public beaches that run for 12 miles. If you want to venture into the ocean, try one of the boat cruises and fishing trips for families: Patriot and Ocean Quest. or take part in whale watching, an exciting and safe activity for children. If you’re up for educational, but not traditional, experiences, head to the National Marine Fisheries Aquarium . Here you can touch marine animals and talk to the staff as they prepare food and feed animals.

You can also visit the Cape Cod Children’s Museum  where you can play together with your kids. Exhibits include a 30­foot pirate ship climbing structure and a medieval castle. For even more adventures, the Ocean Quest organizes marine research activities for kids aboard a converted 60­foot fishing vessel, where children learn about oceanography and marine life.

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

Kitty Hawk, part of the Outer Banks, offers uncrowded beaches and a beautiful wild environment. Kitty Hawk Beach is best known for surfing and skimboarding. Visit the Kitty Hawk Kayak Center to learn more about these activities for you and your family. If you like hiking, be sure to stop by the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve, which hosts guided hikes among a wide diversity of wildlife such as, gray fox, raccoon and white­tailed deer. In case of rain, head to the Children at Play Museum  a place where kids and parents can learn about fishing and other activities through play. Not far away, the North Carolina Aquarium, located on Roanoke Island, is also worth a visit if you want to learn more about the Outer Banks fauna (activities for kids are provided as well).

Amelia Island, Florida

A tranquil place, Amelia Island, is located along Florida's northeast coast. Its historical roots run deep, because it was once controlled by France, Spain and England, making it a spot for diverse cultural activities. Amelia Island Museum of History  is a great place to get a glimpse into the island’s ancient past. The museum has an interactive children’s area, and it organizes tours around the historical buildings of the center, including ghost tours! If you are visiting in February, be sure to check out the Amelia Island Book Festival, which hosts a variety of events for kids and teens. If you enjoy nature, you can do so by walking or kayaking through Amelia Island and the local inland waters (Eco motion tours; Fresh Spirit Adventures; Amelia Island Kayak Excursions).The Amelia Island Nature Festival (May), is designed to educate participants about the local environment, and it provides some experiences exclusively fitted for kids, like the Kids­Only Eco Kayaking Tour and The Fishing Clinic.

Rockaway Beach, Oregon

The community of Rockaway was established as a seaside resort in 1909 by the Rockaway Beach Company, and the city has maintained its heritage ever since. Rockaway Beach’s large shores are ideal for kite flying. If you think you’re up to the challenge, join the competition at the Rockaway Beach Kite Festival (May), which gathers contenders of all ages in a friendly, unofficial environment. Take a day trip to Munson Creek Falls, the tallest waterfall in the Coast Range.

If you're prefer something quiet, take a ride with your kids on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, aboard a 1910 Heisler Steam Locomotive. In June, drop by the Rockaway Beach Pirate Festival and Treasure Hunt, which features pirate music, roving pirates, food and drinks, performances and entertainment for all ages.

South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island National Seashore is said to be one of Texas' seven natural wonders. If you want your kids to get in touch with the beauty of nature and wildlife, you need to visit South Padre Island. On the beach, there are a wide variety of diving, surfing and parasailing courses offered for kids and adults. If you want to see the local fauna, visit the sea turtle habitat, where injured sea turtles are rescued and rehabilitated. The Sealife Center organizes tours and close encounters with dolphins and marine animals native to the area, a memorable experience for both children and adults.

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