Are you looking for somewhere a bit different for your family holiday this year? Following on from our popular article 10 of the Coolest and Best Vacation Spots for Kids, here are 10 more of the coolest and best vacation spots for kids, guaranteed to have them rushing to the front of the class to tell their “holiday news” when school returns!
Always check travel warnings in advance to make sure that the destination is safe before planning travel.
#1. Costa Rica
With volcanoes, beaches, jungles and cool wild animals, Costa Rica is an excellent vacation spot for families. It’s got good transport links to get around, is safe, and people are very welcoming to children in restaurants and hotels.
- If you visit between July & November, visit the Refugio Nacional de Fauna Silvestre Ostional for the chance to see nesting olive ridley sea turtles, one of the smallest species of sea turtle. Rocky Punta India at the northwestern end of the refuge has tide pools full of marine life, such as starfish, urching and sea anemones. Ghost crabs and bright red Sally Lightfood crabs clamber along the beach and you may see iguanas, howler monkeys, coatis and many birds in the vegetation along the beach.
- A visit to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve will let you see amazing wildlife, you might get a rare glimpse of jaguars, ocelots and the colorfully plumed quetzal. The reserve’s well-marked trails cut through ferns and orchids, and there are hanging bridges to walk along amid the forest canopy. The Montefeverde Cloud Forest Train is a narrow-gauge train system travelling 4 miles through the forest, through one tunnel and across four bridges. The scenic railroad offers amazing views of Monteverde and Arenal lake and volcano.
- Until 2010, Volcan Arenal was Costa Rica’s most active volcano, but it has now entered into an indeterminate resting phase. You can hike through the Arenal Volcano National Park or have a soak in a hot spring or do some white water rafting (older kids).
#2. Naples, Italy
Famous for its pizza, Naples with its busy street life, colourful buildings, scooters zipping everywhere, laundry flapping in the sea breezes, makes a super fun holiday location for families. Italians are so child friendly too, you’ll be welcomed everywhere too.
- Kids will enjoy the Castel Nuovo, an imposing medieval castle built in 1279 located in front of Piazza Municipio and the city hall in central Naples.
- Climb to the top of Mount Vesuvius to see the crater and also fabulous views of the Bay of Naples. It is an active volcano although it hasn’t erupted since 1944, and is most famous as the volcano that erupted in Roman times (AD 79) and buried Pompeii. The volcano is just 6 miles from Naples, and you can combine a half day at Pompeii with a visit to the volcano. It is not unsafe to visit Mount Vesuvius but be prepared, it can be cool at the top and you need a hat, suncream and lots of water.
- Pompeii is the most popular visitor attraction and can get very crowded, it lacks shade so can get very hot to visit during summer months. Younger kids may not find it as interesting, so you might want to consider a visit to Ercolano (or Herculaneum) instead, it’s more compact and gets less visitors. Just like Pompeii, Ercolano is a buried Roman city that was remarkably preserved when excavated.
And a big must for a stay in Naples is of course the pizza!
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#3. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Known as “Pearl of the Adriatic”, Dubrovnik is a pretty town by the sea, which offers history and attractive views, as well as nearby beaches.
- Walk the old City walls (1.9km) and see the old Towers and Forts. If you plan to walk the length of the walls, then make sure to take plenty of water and rests as it can be strenous on a hot day.
- Take the Cable Car up to Mt Srđ for amazing views over the cities and the Adriatic and its islands. It can be cool at the top but there are snack bar and restaurants up there so you could stop for a bite there.
- Walk the Stradun (or Placa) the main pedestrianised street in the city which runs between the Pile and Ploce gates. There’s plenty to see along the 300 metre stretch.
- Take a day trip to Lokrum, a forested island just 15 mins by boat from the city. On the island you will find a small salt lake idea for kids to swim in as well as botanical gardens and a Benedictine monastery. See if you can spot the peacocks wandering around!
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#4. Austin, Texas, USA
Austin is the state capital of Texas and self-professed Live music capital of the world but it also offers plenty of family-friendly attractions and activities as well. It also has year-round warm weather, making it pleasant to visit year round with plenty of outdoor options for families.
Here are some highlights to visit:
- We visited Austin Zoo with our 3 year old and one of the highlights of the visit was when a goat stole the zoo map out of my husband’s back pocket and ate it! But goats aside, the zoo is a rescue zoo and animal sanctuary and has a wide variety of animals to see while you wander outdoors.
- Also worth a visit is Thinkery, formerly Austin Children’s Museum, which opened at its new location, in 2013, a 40,000 square foot facility in the Mueller community. The Thinkery delivers its mission through a variety of exhibits and programs that focus on science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). Museum activities revolve around educational experiences led by staff, so each visit is different from the last.
- Barton Springs located in Zilker Park offers a unique experience year round as you can swim in the pool, which is three acres in size, and is fed from underground springs with an average temperature of 68-70 degrees, ideal for year-round swimming. The Springs is also home to the endangered Barton Springs Salamander, and is listed as a federally protected habitat. The pool is closed to the public every Thursday to allow for the vigorous and methodical cleaning methods required to help maintain the pool area for wildlife and guests alike. You can also visit Splash!, an educational exhibit to learn about the history and biology of Barton Springs and the Edwards Aquifer which feeds it.
- Be sure to visit some of the other attractions within Zilker Park while you are there including the Zephyr miniature train, canoeing on Town Lake, and hike and bike trails with large full-service picnic areas, six of which are reservable, and finally, take a picnic and blanket to enjoy summer musical and Shakespeare at Zilker Hillside Theatre.
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#5. Odessa, Ukraine
With a sunny climate and sandy beaches, Odessa has leafy streets and pastel buildings and numerous fun things to do with kids including beach visits, sea cruises and catacomb tours.
Here are some fun things to see in Odessa with the kids:
- One of the most unusual things to see in Odessa is the Monument to an Orange. Yes, a monument to an orange, or actually 4000 oranges, which is located on Zhvanetsky Boulevard. The story goes that when Russian Empress Catherine the Great died, her son, Pavel I, became Emperor of Russia. Unlike his mother, he wasn’t keen on turning Odessa into Empire’s new grand port, especially since most of the funding, previously sent to to the city, had disappeared in the pockets of local government. So he stopped the financial contributions and Odessa was on the brink of turning into yet another provincial town in the outskirts. Odessans decided to try to save the city by giving the most extravagant and unexpected present for the Emperor – 4000 of the best Greek oranges. Luckily Pavel I loved the present so much that he doubled the city’s funding and Odessa’s construction continued and the city flourished.
- The Potyomkinskaya Staircase is the formal entrance to the city from the sea and is the best known symbol of Odessa. The famous stairs were immortalised in Eisenstein’s film “Battle of the Potemkin” the first time slow motion for dramatic action was used with the baby carriage bouncing down the staircase one step at a time. Why not climb and count all 192 steps? But if they prove too much, there is a funicular lift nearby.
- As well as Odessa Zoo, there’s Nemo Dolphinarium where you can see shows with dolphins and stringrays, and visit the oceanarium to see sharks and piranhas.
- At the Lego Center in Odessa you’ll find tables with Lego to build at and on Sundays Lego Center hosts board game fun for children of various ages.
#6. Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki offers families a fun destination with lots of indoor and outdoor activities for all ages. As well as museums and outdoor parks, it’s a lovely city to walk about in or take a tram for a fun ride. You can download a free fun family map to Helsinki.
- Gardenia is a unique tropical garden located in Viikki, in the heart of Helsinki, next to the Vanhankaupunginlahti Bay nature reserve and the Helsinki Univeristy campus area. The luxuriant tropical garden, covered by glass, is a beautiful and refreshing place to visit all year round.
- Helsinki has many outdoor playgrounds where the kids can swing, climb, jump and
run around to their hearts’ delight but if the weather is not so good, then Helsinki Playground is a 1,000 sq m indoor fun facility, where the adventure begins as soon as you arrive and take the elevator 30 metres down to the “Play Cave” beneath Hakaniemi Market. Kids will enjoy the adventure bouncy castles, jungle play area, ball pool and climbing wall. There is also a separate play area for small children.
- Seurasaari Island with a famous old white wooden bridge joining it to the mainland is a good picnic and outdoor recreation spot, bring your swimming stuff as there are plenty of beach spots to swim from. Kids will enjoy the squirrels and birds and you might even spot a game of Kyykkä being played, involving wooden sticks. There’s also the Open-Air Museum on Seursaari which shows the Finnish way of life in the cottages, farmsteads and houses from the past relocated from all around Finland.
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#7. Charleston SC
Picturesque Charleston is the oldest and 2nd largest city in South Carolina with cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel pre-Civil-War-era houses. With some of the friendliest residents, plenty of history, seaside beaches and delicious
There’s plenty for families to do in Charleston, check out the Charleston Family Fun website, and here are 3 highlights we picked out:
- At the South Carolina Aquarium see interactive exhibits with loggerhead turtles, stingrays, sharks, otters, moray eels, alligators and more.
- Step back in time at the Boone Hall Plantation showing Southern heritage with its “still working” plantation. You can take house tours, enjoy gardens, see how slaves used to live and wander along one of the world’s longest oak-lined avenues.
- The Folly Beach Fishing Pier stretches 1,045 feet into the Atlantic Ocean
and is the second longest pier on the east coast of America. As well as offering spectacular views, you can rent rods to do a spot of fishing, see fishing tournaments, special events, and have brunch, lunch or dinner at Locklear’s Beach City Grill.
- The Charlestowne Landing State Historic Site is located on the Ashley River, where a group of English settlers landed in 1670 and established what would become the birthplace of the Carolina colony. There are hands-on exhibits in the Visitor Center, and a self-guided history trail. You can climb on board the Adventure, Charleston’s only 17th-century replica sailing ship, see cannons fired (3rd Saturdays and select special events), or take a peek at otters, bears, bison and more at the Animal Forest natural habitat zoo. The grounds also include 80 acres of gardens, with trails to ramble around.
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#8. Skane, Southern Sweden
Sweden is a very family friendly outdoor oriented country with plenty to do. You’ll enjoy Skane in South Sweden where you will find forests, rivers, sea islands and beaches.
- Wanas Konst Art Park is an outdoor art park with installations from renowned artist such as Marina Abramovic, and Yoko Ono. It really encourages children to climb on and interact with the sculptures. There’s also a lovely cafe with outdoor seating as well as picnic tables.
- Lekoseum is an interactive toy museum near the old BRIO train factory. It covers the history of Swedish toys with lots of fun interactive play areas, and a cafe too. Santa even has a workshop in the basement with Swedish elves called Tomten, that kids can check out all year long!
- Skanes Djurpark is a zoological park with native animals of Sweden. Get up close and cosy to moose! There’s a waterpark at the end, so don’t forget the swimming togs too.
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#9. Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax offers great fun activities for the whole family either in the city itself or in rural communities near to hand. It is a very walkable city, with historic waterfront and plenty to see and do.
Here are some cool ideas for things to do in Halifax with kids:
- Visit the corn maze at Davison Farms, a very reasonably priced admission at only $5 per person and free for children under 4. And other nearby attractions including Manning Family Farm Market, Daniel’s U-Pick, On-Tree Zipline Park at Ski Martock, Sainte Famille Winery and The Dill Farm – home of giant pumpkins – all near Halifax.
- Take a ferry across the harbour to Dartmouth, it is the oldest, continuous, salt-water passenger ferry service in North America.
- Head to the Halifax Central Library where kids can play games, toys, computers, books and more.
- Give your brain a workout at The Discovery Centre, the hands-on science centre in downtown Halifax. With a mission to make science interesting, enjoyable and interactive, The Discovery Centre features exhibitions, a state-of-the-art digital planetarium, live science demonstrations and interesting science programs for all ages. Wednesday night is Family Night.
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#10. Skyros, Greece
An amazingly beautiful island, Skyros is the largest, but quietest, of the Sporades islands, to the north of Athens. It is the very idea of a traditional Greek island, and its hospitable people and pretty surroundings will enchant you. This is an excellent island for couples and families with young children with sandy beaches and clear blue Aegean waters.
- Skyros has some really nice sandy beaches, and since it is not a very touristy island you’ll get a lot of peace and quiet. There are great sports for snorkelling on beaches around the island, and you can usually find watersports at Magazia Beach. You can take boat trips around the island, and if you are lucky, you might see dolphins or even seals.
- In Skyros Town you can visit the Kastro and the archaeological museum and folklore museums which both hold interesting finds and objects from the island. Visit the monastery Agios Georgios Skyrianos (St. George of Skyros) built in the 10th century. located below the kastro.
- In the south part of the island, visit the olive grove where you can see the grave of the British poet Rupert Brooke who died here during World War I.
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Over to you now! Have you visited any of these cool destinations? Tell us what you thought in the comments below.