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5 vacation destinations your kids will love

By Trent Lorcher, Contributing writer
Published On: Apr 10 2012 02:42:51 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 10 2013 09:15:26 AM CDT
family destinations

You tried Disney World. That three-hour wait to shake Donald Duck's hand would have been worth it if it had been the actual Donald Duck. Turns out it was a theater major from the local community college dressed like a duck. What a rip-off!

Camping's a great kid-friendly vacation, you thought. What were you thinking? Nothing like a 4-year-old and a pile of dirt for a week. At least you got a taste of the 14-hour workday so popular in the Middle Ages.

That trip to the water park went well too, didn't it? Except for the near drowning and the sixth-degree sunburn.

Isn't it time to think outside the toy box for the next family vacation? Try these five unknown kid-friendly travel destinations, and spare yourself the wanting to pound your face into a brick wall frustration you felt last year.

Washington Monument, Washington DC

No. 5: Washington, D.C.

Most people equate Washington, D.C., with politics, corruption, and really bad professional sports teams. Anyone who's taken the family there knows it as one of the top kid-friendly travel destinations in the nation.

A kid could spend hours at the various sites of the Smithsonian Institution, without needing to check text messages every four minutes. There are numerous parks and the kids might discover that history's actually pretty interesting.

After checking out the educational stuff, check out the National Zoo or the spy museum. Throw in a top-notch public transportation system, sparing the young ones an unpresidential tirade while you fight traffic, and you really can't go wrong.

After a few days in D.C., you can always head south into Virginia and check out George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, Colonial Williamsburg, or just enjoy the miles of outdoor recreation.

This next unknown kid-friendly destination is a recreation paradise.

Sedona, Arizona mountains

No. 4: Sedona, Ariz.

Instead of heading north off I-40 toward the Grand Canyon, where you can worry about your kids plummeting thousands of feet to their deaths as condescending tourists scold you for not keeping tabs on your children, head south to Sedona.

Sedona is as beautiful as the Grand Canyon and it has hotels. For the same price as staring at a colorful hole with thousands of strangers, you have a week's access to dozens of great trails.

Instead of waiting in line an hour for $9 grease-laden chili cheese fries, you get to hike an hour and enjoy a picnic lunch at the top of a mountain.

Throw in swimming holes and several state parks, and you have yourself one heckuva kid-friendly vacation.

Speaking of swimming, the next destination has plenty.

Morro Bay, California, Pacific Ocean

No. 3: Central California coast

Everyone knows about Southern California. That's why it's so crowded. For those who don't mind cooler temperatures -- water and air -- drive a few hours north and enjoy the uncrowded beaches and family-friendly environment of the central California coast.

If you're looking for scantily clad hotties and keggers on the beach, stay in the south. If you want to spend days on the beach body-boarding with the kids, go to San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Cayucos, or any of the other towns along the central coast.

If you want to see animals sleeping in a cage, go south. If you want to swim with otters, watch dolphins close to shore, or view the Pacific's largest sea lion population, go to the central coast. If you enjoy being single, try Southern California; if you enjoy your family, try central California.

The next destination on the list really understands family.

Zion National Park, Utah

No. 2: Utah

No state understands families the way Utah does.

According to the 2000 Census, Utah families have, on average, more kids than the average family in any other state, which means you don't get nearly as many dirty looks when your 2-year-old son throws his meatball and screams while at the local eatery.

Add in a changing table at every public restroom and the toughest tobacco and alcohol laws in the U.S. and you have a culture that caters to families.

The Beehive State's seven national parks and numerous state parks make it a Mecca for mountain bikers, hikers, rock climbers, and parents who don't think their kids should watch 21 hours of TV every day. Utah also claims to have the greatest snow on Earth. Although it hasn't been verified scientifically, Salt Lake City did host the 2002 Winter Olympics.

However, the next destination doesn't require an Olympic effort.

Family vacation roadtrip

No. 1: Your hometown

Did you ever notice that your kids have just as much fun at the neighborhood pool than they do at the beach? Did you notice that the Chuck E. Cheese across town is really similar to the Chuck E. Cheese near Disney World?

Did you realize a day with Mom and Dad at the local park is as important to your kids as a day at the park on an exotic island? It's also a lot less expensive.

Plan a vacation in your hometown. Call in sick to work. Stay at a hotel for a night. Budget as you would for an out-of-town vacation and do all those things people do in your town who are from out of town.

You can even dress like a tourist, ask stupid questions, make left turns from the right lane, and be a general nuisance. It doesn't matter.

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