I’m appearing this morning on Good Day Columbus on FOX28 in Columbus, Ohio. I’m in town for the AAA Great Vacations Expo, where I’ll be speaking later today and tomorrow at noon. I’m a little bummed that I’m going to miss headliner Adam Richman of Man vs. Food do his thing, but I’ve been away from my husband a lot this month. If you are in Columbus, check out the Expo!
For the show, the producers asked me to come up with a list of my favorite places to go on a family vacation. I chose the ones below because they are places where I have great memories of visiting with my family and others. I’m happy to hear your suggestions – just leave them in the comments section below!
Yellowstone National Park
Bears and buffalo, wolves and elk – you’re almost guaranteed a wildlife sighting at some point in Yellowstone National Park. Besides the animals, Yellowstone offers geothermal wonders such as Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs and bubbling hot pots. The park also has a fantastic Junior Ranger program for kids 5 to 12 that’s a perfect introduction to the National Park system. Admission is $25 per vehicle for a pass that’s good for 7 days.
The Capitol, the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials – where else can you see so many American icons in one place? DC is also one of the best vacation deals around, as almost all of the Smithsonian’s museums are free. Some of the more popular attractions do require reservations so it’s best to book ahead.
Arizona’s second city south of Phoenix really has the best of the west. Outside of town, there’s the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, where kids can see native wildlife such as cougars, roadrunners, and scorpions. From Sept. to May, admission is $13 for adults, and $4.25 for kids ages 6 to 12 (prices drop in the hot summer months). At Old Tucson Studios, kids can tour sets and pretend they are starring in their own Western (admission is $16.95 for adults and $10.95 for children ages 4-11). For even more history, drive an hour south to Tombstone – the site of the famous shootout at the OK Corral.
Filled historical interpreters wearing authentic Colonial garb, the whole town is an educational experience. Kids can watch a blacksmith in action, get lost in the Palais maze or take their photo in the stocks. Children 5 and under are free, and there’s special rates for kids 5 to 17. Older youngsters might like visiting nearby Yorktown, where the Revolution ended, and Jamestown, the first perman English settlement in the United States.
This was one of my favorite vacations as a kid. Adventurous children will love taking the Maid of the Mist, a boat that takes you close to the falls (the ride is free for children under 5). Within Niagara Falls State Park, you can also take the Cave of the Winds tour that gets you within 20 feet from Bridal Veil Falls. Although some of the tours are only open in the late spring through fall and do charge an admission fee, you can go to the visitor center and see the falls from the observation tower for free.
I wanted to make sure my list had a beach on it. Sure, you can go to tourist meccas such as Ocean City, Maryland or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But I love the natural beauty of Monterey. Kids can explore tidal pools, watch surfers and see seals and sea lions. Older children might like historic Cannery Row or renting bikes for the city’s Recreation Trail. If you want to splurge, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best in the world (tickets are $29.95 for adults and $17.95 for kids 3 to 12; students between 13 and 17 pay $27.95).