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Family Travel for the Holidays: Under-the-Radar Spots Great for a Group

11/6/17 by Charlotte Dohrn

Planning a trip that the whole family will love can feel like a daunting prospect. All too often you end up on a long car ride through the middle of nowhere, activities that only one person enjoys, or too many decisions that no one can agree on anything. If you’re looking for a destination that promises more family-friendly fun and less arguing, you’ll need to choose carefully.

We know that the options can feel overwhelming, so we did the legwork for you and put together a list of our favorite places for a fun family getaway. Each location offers something for everyone, from hiking, biking, and surfing for outdoors enthusiasts to scenic drives and exploring quaint towns for more laidback travelers.

Check out this list of seven destinations to add to your family travel bucket list and get ready to make memories that will last for years to come.

1. Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is a beautiful place to visit year round.
The Grand Canyon is a beautiful place to visit year round. NPS / Maci MacPherson

The Grand Canyon isn’t just one of the seven natural wonders of the world and an American classic - it’s also the ideal destination for a memorable family trip. With the Colorado River carving through the red and orange canyon that’s up to a mile deep and 18 miles wide, the striking landscape is something that family members of all ages will never forget.

Visitors looking for more amenities should head to the more developed South Rim for historic lodges and accommodations, while adventurous families should camp at the more remote North Rim. Numerous hiking trails trace the canyon edge and lead you down to the canyon floor, where you can go rafting on the Colorado River.

2. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia

Best known for world-class skiing and snowboarding, Whistler Blackcomb Resort in British Columbia is an ideal family vacation destination year round. Tucked into Canada’s Fitzsimmons Range of the Coast Mountains north of Vancouver, the scenery provides a stunning backdrop and endless recreation opportunities.

In the winter, the resort offers ski and snowboard lessons, tubing, sledding and some of North America’s best alpine terrain - guaranteeing options for everyone. In the summer, you can hike, bike, and take in the mountain scenery. Drive less than two hours south to explore the city of Vancouver’s thriving art and music scene.

3. Kauai, Hawaii

Plan your Hawaii trip for one of the lesser-visited (but just as beautiful) islands - Kauai.
Plan your Hawaii trip for one of the lesser-visited (but just as beautiful) islands - Kauai. Andrew Baerst

While 4.7 million people visit the popular island of Oahu each year, about a quarter as many people visit Kauai, making it a great spot for your next family vacation. Nicknamed the "Garden Island" thanks to its lush tropical landscape, Kauai promises a serene getaway, far from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.

Families looking for a mellower trip should check out the sunny Poipu area on the island's southern coast, where you’ll find great beaches that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. For a more striking and rugged experience, visit the Nā Pali Coast on the North Shore where you can hike the famous Kalalau Trail, visit waterfalls, and paddle remove coves.

4. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park is especially beautiful in the fall.
Acadia National Park is especially beautiful in the fall. heipei

Want to be the first family in the country to see the sun come up on your vacation? Then add Acadia National Park to your list. Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak in the area and from October until March, it’s also the first place in the continental United States where the sun appears. No matter what time of year you visit, expect wide-open views over the rocky coastline, as well as opportunities for hiking, biking, and scenic drives at Maine’s only national park. The 27-mile Park Loop Road system offers access to some of the park’s best scenery, and Cadillac Mountain provides an ideal lookout over the park.

You can set up camp in the park or stay in the quaint nearby town of Bar Harbor, which is also worth a visit.

5. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

If your family enjoys being on the water, head to Minnesota.
If your family enjoys being on the water, head to Minnesota. Justin Meissen

If you’re looking to get off the beaten path, head to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Endless lakes and streams turn the 1 million-acre wilderness area into a watery maze, perfect for a tranquil family escape. With more than 1,500 miles of canoe routes and plenty of places to camp, adventurous (and organized) groups can plan their own trips or work with an outfitter who will handle all of the logistics. If canoeing from campsite to campsite sounds like a recipe for stress, consider using the nearby town of Ely as a base camp.

6. Baja California

Baja California isn’t just a spring break destination.
Baja California isn’t just a spring break destination. Sam Beebe

The Baja California Peninsula, extending south into Mexico from the California border, is an often-overlooked destination for a family trip. While Baja’s largest coastal cities have reputations as spring break spots, there is plenty of family-friendly fun to be had if you’re willing to get out of the main tourist haunts.

Low-key destinations like Cabo Pulmo on the southern tip of the peninsula have plenty of affordable vacation rentals and the Gulf of California (between mainland Mexico and Baja) has some of the best diving, kayaking, and wildlife watching in North America.

7. Iceland

Visit waterfalls like Skógafoss on a family trip to Iceland.
Visit waterfalls like Skógafoss on a family trip to Iceland. Mitchel Jones

A slightly shorter (and much cheaper) flight than mainland Europe, Iceland’s popularity as a travel destination for backpackers and families alike has exploded in recent years thanks in part to budget airlines flying to Reykjavik. Once you get there, rent a car and drive the island’s scenic and remote roads, stopping along the way for hikes, horses, and hot springs. For a more leisurely experience, check out famous attractions like the Blue Lagoon or the Skógafoss waterfall in Skógar. If you can handle the cold, plan your trip between September and April for a chance to spot the famous Northern Lights dancing across the sky.

No matter where your family travels take you, don’t forget the real reason you’re there - to spend time with each other and make memories to last a lifetime.

Originally written by RootsRated for ExOfficio.