Are you looking for somewhere a bit different for your family holiday this year? Here are 10 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!
1. The Black Forest
Renowned for its beautiful scenery, the Black Forest in south west Germany is also a very family friendly destination with lots of activities and things to do for kids and families.
An amazing 20 out of 24 Family–holiday quality seals in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg were awarded to destinations in the Black Forest, the seal of approval is “Leo Luschtig” (Funny Leo) and can only be achieved if the destination satisfies the complete range of needs and wishes of children.
The spa town of Baden-Baden and unofficial capital Freiburg, with its tall cathedral, make nice day trips, as well as visits to Germany’s oldest amusement park at Tripsdrill or newer adventure park Europa Park in Rust.
And staying on a farm is one of the best ways to experience this part of Germany as well as letting the kids enjoy the animals and farm experience. You’ll find lots of great accommodation options on the Schwarzwald website and lots more information on the official tourism website.
Sweden is a great winter holiday destination but visit during the summer months and you’ll find a very family friendly outdoor oriented country with plenty to do. You’ll enjoy forests, rivers, sea islands as well as castles, palaces and Viking settlements.
Sweden’s big three cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö have a variety of activities from museums to theme parks, such as the famous open-air museum and zoo Skansen, to keep the kids busy and interested.
What about staying in a cabin or summer cottage on a lake. There are lots on Airbnb available to rent.
The Visitsweden.com website gives lots more information and suggestions.
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Ostend is Belgium’s biggest and best known coastal resort, it’s a cosmopolitan town with lots to see and do. You’ll enjoy being by the seaside with five and a half miles of sandy beaches to play on, and the Belgian food is very child-friendly, what’s not to love about waffles, chocolate, shrimps and frites!
Explorado is a fascinating play and learning world, giving an exciting adventure in science, built on the former Earth Explorer site. Or you might enjoy visiting the sailing ships Mercator and Amandine, now museums that you can climb aboard and visit.
And stop by Leopold Park to see the famous flower clock which is made of 15,000 flowers and plants.
More ideas and information on the Visit Ostende website.
4. Pacific Northwest USA
The cities of Seattle and Portland (3 hours’ drive apart) make a nice twin destination family holiday. Both are laid back destinations with plenty for the family to enjoy (and lots of good coffee and beer for Mum and Dad!)
In Seattle we recommend
- Pike Place Market (look out for the fish guys that toss the fish around!)
- Seattle Aquarium
- Riding the Monorail from the city centre to the world-famous and iconic Space Needle
- EMP Museum of Music
- You can also take day trips to some of the islands and go whale watching.
More info on the Visit Seattle website.
In Portland we recommend
- Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
- Portland Children’s Museum
- Portland Aerial Tram
- A visit to the world-famous VooDoo Doughnuts
More info on the Travel Portland website.
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Most people only know Girona as a Ryanair destination for Barcelona. This is a pity because Girona is a pretty, medieval walled city, with plenty to do in its own right.
It has a well-preserved Jewish Quarter, a baroque cathedral and lots of cafes and little shops dotting its narrow streets. Both the Old Town and the New Town across the river are highly pedestrianized, so you won’t need to hire a car during your stay.
You’re also within easy striking distance of Barcelona (about an hour by train or bus) to take a day trip to enjoy some of the Gaudi architecture or take a tour of Barcelona’s famous stadium, Camp Nou.
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The beautiful port city of Gdansk in Poland on the Baltic Sea has cosy streets, pretty buildings and is ideal for cycling and walking with plenty of paths to navigate.
It also has one of Poland’s largest zoos in Oliwa. There’s also a rope park in the north part of the zoo for both parents and kids to enjoy.
Sopot Beach is worth a visit, by August the water is warm enough to swim in but it’s also a great beach to stroll and search for pieces of amber that sometimes wash up. The sand is reasonably soft and very clean.
You might also enjoy a boat ride to Hel, a quaint fishing village about 2 hours away. There’s also Kolibki Adventure Park with heaps of activities and Loopy’s World, a play world with all kinds of trampolines, sliding, crawling and climbing attractions.
7. Isle of Mull
Mull is the 2nd largest island of the Inner Hebrides (after Skye), off the west coast of Scotland. It has great scenery and offers the chance to see some amazing wildlife including whales, dolphins and the UK’s largest eagle population. When we visited we saw a sea otter and seals.
The main town Tobermory may be familiar as the setting of the children’s programme Balamory. Be sure also to visit Calgary Bay on the west coast, where you’ll find a fantastic beach. Nearby at Dervaig is the Old Byre Heritage Centre with a great play area.
At Craignure you might also enjoy visiting the Bird of Prey Centre and taking the narrow gauge railway ride to Torosay Castle.
If you are up for a long drive, then do consider visiting Iona. The ferry point for Iona is at Fionnphort. Once you get there it’s a short ferry ride (4 minutes!) to the island which has played a key role in Scotland’s history, with its famous abbey. You can also visit Staffa and see puffins up close but that boat trip is weather dependent. We did both Iona and Staff in the same day.
Not too far from Paris or indeed Disneyland Paris, Champagne is a lovely place to visit with historic medieval towns and villages, pretty scenery and well, there is the bubbly drink…
Troyes is a lovely town of cobbled streets, half-timbered houses and is also well known for discount shopping (bonus!).
Langres is a beautiful small town on a plateau with stunning views. It’s touristy enough to have a tourist train, but without tourist trap prices, a really secret spot in the middle of the French countryside.
The cathedral city of Rheims is worth a stop at to see the one of the most impressive gothic cathedrals in France, where many French monarchs were crowned. It’s a very walkable city too.
Don’t miss out the Ardennes in the far north on the Belgian border, with breathtakingly wild landscape and great outdoor options such as hiking, cycling and boating. The region’s main town, Charleville-Mézières, is thrust into the limelight every three years by an international puppet festival but is worth a visit at other times for its lovely seventeenth-century palace.
More information on the Champagne Ardennes Tourism website.
With stunning and unique scenery, volcanoes, geothermal pools, geysers, Northern Lights, unusual food, Iceland is a country that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Reykjavik, the capital, is a very walkable city. Its spaceship-looking church, Hallgrimskirkja, is the tallest Icelandic structure.
Take a warm swim in the world famous Blue Lagoon, which is a bit like a giant hot tub to float around, it has caves, swim up bars, hot tubs, massaging waterfalls and plenty of places to sit and relax.
The Golden Circle is the most popular tourist route from Reykjavik, it runs for 300 km from Reykjavik to central Iceland and back. The three main stops on the route are the national park Thingvellir, the waterfall Gullfoss (“golden falls”) and the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Thingvellir is a national park containing both historical and natural beauties. Kids will get a kick out of stepping between continents and watching the geysers erupt.
Another scenic drive is the Ring Road (aka Highway 1), 830 miles of road that encircles the country and skirts black-sand beaches, volcanoes, imposing fjords, crater lakes, thermal fields, and some of the world’s largest glaciers. (You will be in the car for a long time so stock up on things to amuse).
You might find 30 of the most entertaining car games handy
10. San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas is a fantastic, interesting and super-family-friendly destination. There’s literally heaps to do while you are staying.
The city’s River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, at the heart of the city, is tucked quietly below street level and only steps from the Alamo, it provides a really pleasant way to navigate the city. You can ride a river cruiser, rent a bicycle or take your time seeing the sights on foot. We loved wandering along it, taking in shops, cafes and restaurants as we went.
Here are just a few of the kid-friendly attractions in San Antonio:
- At the San Antonio Botanical Garden you can explore the futuristic Lucile Halsell Conservatory or walk the Texas Native Trail for a close-up encounter with the beautiful world of plants.
- San Antonio’s Children’s Museum is being relocated and renamed the Doseum in Summer 2015, it will have 65,000 sq ft of exhibitis plus 30,000 sq ft of outdoor exhibits and activities.
- Louis Tussaud’s Wax Works & Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Ripley’s Moving Theater 4D offer literally hours of fun.
- And don’t miss The Alamo, famous for the small band of Texans who held out for thirteen days against the Mexican army. Located on Alamo Plaza in downtown San Antonio, Texas, the Alamo houses exhibits on the Texas Revolution and Texan History.
You’ll find oodles of great information and things to do with kids on the Visit San Antonio website.
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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.