Sometimes a family vacation means roller coasters, magical kingdoms or movie studio tours.
Those can be fun.
But there really is nothing quite like experiencing the amazing sights, sounds and general wonder that nature offers us with those we love. And there are plenty of places in North America to make that happen.
Places like …
10. Out ‘n About Treesort, Southwestern Oregon
Trees + resort … you get it!
Here’s a destination that would make a tree dweller like Tarzan proud.
Fifteen tree houses make up Out ‘n About, located on Oregon’s Siskiyou Mountain range … yes, we said tree houses!
They range from a gazebo 37 feet aloft and accessible only by a canopy walkway to the “Swiss Family Complex,” with separate units for adults and kids and your choice of exit: sliding down a fire pole or swinging from a rope.
You can even take lessons to design and build your own tree fort!
9. Boulders Edge, Southeastern Ohio
Here you get to choose your family’s early American experience: A Native American tepee (sleeps up to eight) or in an authentic log cabin.
Either way, you are in for an experience like no other. This area of southeastern Ohio known for its spectacular sandstone formations.
Boulders Edge, is close to Hocking Hills State Park for hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, zip-lining, and … just try to find this anywhere else … tumbling down the hills in a giant inflatable ball.
Breathtaking views abound, including Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Cantwell Cliffs … and so much more!
8. Whitewater Rafting, West Virginia
Are your teens (or tweens or youngsters) nature-challenged?
Are they Facebooking and texting their lives away?
Well, the incredible thrill of whitewater rafting is guaranteed to get their attention!
No one gets bored on a rafting trip on the "Beast of the East," the nickname for West Virginia's Gauley River, which boasts the most intense whitewater rafting east of the Mississippi.
But don’t worry about shocking their systems … for the younger set there's the nearby New River, which flows slower in the upper sections as it cuts through a gorgeous 1,000-foot-deep gorge and passes beneath a steel-arch bridge.
There's still an “Awesome, dude” factor there, but the paddling is safe enough for kids as young as age six.
7. Glacier National Park, Montana
Montana's Glacier National Park is an unforgettable family memory just waiting for you to experience it!
Introduce the kids to the stunning vistas, more than 200 lakes, 175 named mountains, and 40 glaciers, all tucked within one million acres of natural beauty. Yes, that was one MILLION.
Classic historically accurate boats glide across the alpine lakes, and venture down the wild and scenic Middle and North Forks of the Flathead River.
Biking, boating, horseback rides, fishing, cross-country skiing, camping … what’s your pleasure?
But be warned … like any great family adventure, it can be overwhelming. Be sure to plan your favorite activities in advance.
6. Great Smoky Mountains Road Trip, Tennessee and North Carolina
What says “family vacation” better than a road trip?
(Okay, those National Lampoon road trip vacation movies featuring the Griswolds weren’t exactly all fun … but this one will be, we promise.)
First a fact we’ll bet you didn’t know: The Great Smoky Mountains ranks as America's most popular national park … really!
On a family drive through the peaks, valleys and passes, your family will encounter more than 1,600 varieties of plants, trees and flowers.
Are they more the wildlife aficionados? There are plenty of deer, elks and black bears throughout the park's half million acres.
Baby boomer parents and grandparents may even want to share a relic of their heyday — the fully peaced-out hippie enclave of Asheville.
5. Camping in Yosemite National Park, California
Ever try to impress your kids and then accidentally impress yourself, too?
That happens a lot at Yosemite. You want to share nature’s most amazing sights, and then you realize just how awesome (in the most literal meaning of the word) it all really is.
Waterfalls taller than skyscrapers … towering granite faces … ancient giant sequoias amid the vast wilderness.
If you stay at the park's Housekeeping Camp you’ll get a gasp-inducing view of two iconic Yosemite spots: Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.
The camp's 266 concrete-walled tents sleep up to six, and are great for families who want to stay outdoors without the hassle of setup and teardown.
And the camp is an ideal base for park activities like rafting three miles down the Merced River and two-hour horseback rides to Mirror Lake.
4. Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Find out here why it’s called the GREAT outdoors!
Steamboat Springs is a one-of-a-kind spot for families. There are great children's ski instructions, not to mention any number of of après-ski activities.
The Kid's Vacation Center is the starting point for families with a streamlined check-in process and (just in case you’re a warm-climate family) a spacious facility to prepare your young ones for the cold.
Lessons are available for children starting at 2.5-years-old, and there are five kids-only slopes where little ones can get good enough to make you proud of their progress (and yet maybe a little embarrassed that they’re getting better than mom and dad).
The Rough Rider Basin is a nod to the Old West with teepees, a log-cabin playhouse and snack areas.
And to top it all off, the whole family can enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the Great Rockies … followed by a soak in the area's signature natural hot springs.
3. Camp Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska
With the advantage of being situated in one of nature’s truly spectacular locations, Camp Denali is the family experience of a lifetime.
For over 60 years, these Denali wilderness lodges have been there to share the beauty, adventure, and wonder of one of the world’s great national parks.
Two distinct, full-service Alaska wilderness lodges specialize in active, learning vacations for families wishing to do more than scratch the surface on their visit to Denali National Park.
What can you look forward to during you stay there?
That’s easy … naturalist-guided outings, fine dining, direct views of the Alaska Range, unique Denali lodging … and an understanding of the magnificent wildlife, rhythms, sights and sensations that will never leave you or your loved ones.
2. Family Nature Camp, Bar Harbor, Maine
It’s an amazing experience. And a unique one as well.
At Family Nature Camp, families explore the natural world—birds, tide pools, beaver habitat—on guided field trips along the craggy coast of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.
And what do we mean by “unique” in this case? How about assembling a minke whale skeleton? You can actually do that.
Adults and kids alike will be thrilled to take a spin aboard the Starfish Enterprise with Diver Ed, who brings sea urchins, sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, and other critters up from the ocean floor for you to touch.
Here’s your chance to engage your entire family in the fun and adventure of the natural world.
1. River Dance Lodge, Central Idaho
A fantastic, unforgettable family vacation doesn’t mean you have to mortgage the house.
Nothing simplifies vacation planning like an all-inclusive family getaway, and River Dance Lodge is the place to go for a unique, affordable encounter with nature.
Located along the Clearwater River in central Idaho's mountain wilderness, every activity is included in one price—your cabin stay, your meals, and the guided activities.
Choose a new adventure each day: horseback riding or rafting, a float trip or fly-fishing, hiking or biking.
At night there are songs around the campfire and dark skies perfect for stargazing while you soak in the hot tub on your cabin's deck.
And your family’s break from civilization will be complete … there's no cell-phone service here, and Internet access is limited to the cafe.