10 Family Travel Destinations We Are Dreaming About for 2019
Written by Erin Feher
Photography by Photo via St. Christopher's Inns
This new year, instead of vowing more trips to the gym, why don’t you opt for somewhere a little more interesting? Starting the year dreaming about (and ultimately planning) an incredible family adventure is the best way to get excited about the next 365 days ahead, and can also help you stay successful with smaller resolutions (it’s easier to skip that expensive coffee when you know the $5 will be going to one more piece of sushi in Japan). To get your wheels spinning—road trip, anyone?—we’ve rounded up the ten family travels destinations we are dreaming about running off to this year, and some of the stops we recommend making with kids in tow.
For families who prefer two wheels to four (that’s us!), Holland is the place to head. The cobblestone streets and meandering canals of Amsterdam offer up a little bit of Venice-like magic, but unlike the tourist-clogged Italian city, this is a true modern metropolis. Kids will adore the Nemo Science Museum and Micropia (a museum dedicated to microbes!), not to mention imagining what life is like on the dozens of floating houses moored along the canals. Easy, convenient street cars shuttle people around the city, but we would opt for the most popular mode of transport—the bike. Rentals are available with child seats (or score a Bakfiet with a spacious bucket in front and haul a gaggle of kids plus groceries, no problem). We dream of taking the kids on a bike tour of Northern Holland, as almost all of the northern part of the country is ringed by a bikes-only (very flat) road, dotted with charming small towns and with east paths to the beach. Windmills, seaside camping (Holland has some of the cleanest, cheapest campsites around), and so, so much cheese. Sounds like a dream trip to us.
Looking for something a little more…tropical? If like us, you never made it to Bali during your adventurous, globe-trotting 20s, you haven’t missed the boat. Bali is an ideal family vacation spot thanks to its kid-friendly culture. There are plenty of family-centric accommodations, a wide array of food options (including lots of Western offerings for less adventurous eaters) and it’s a great value—a few bucks can get you a meal, a foot massage, or a couple of cocktails on the beach. Parking it on the beach all day is always an option, but there is also unlimited adventure if that’s more your speed. We would definitely spend a day at Waterbom Bali, known as the best water park in all of Asia, and visit some of the wildlife habitats that invite you to get up close and personal with elephants, monkeys, sharks, and more. This giant pirate ship would surely be on our itinerary. Make sure to plan your visit between April and September to avoid the constant rain showers that soak the islands during the winter months.
Packing up a sleek new Airstream and heading out to one of the country’s most breathtaking national parks is high on our bucket list this year. Moab is located in eastern Utah and is ringed by some of the country’s most stunning national parks, including Arches and Canyonlands. The rusty red rock formations are like something from another planet (or a Seuss storybook) and an array of approachable hikes will get the whole family out exploring. One of our first orders of business would be the 3-mile round trip hike to Delicate Arch, which leads right to the largest arch in the park (64 feet high, 45 feet wide) and takes you past the historic Wolfe Ranch cabin and a wall of Ute Indian petroglyphs. We would reward our hikers with a trip to Moab Giants, where life-size dinosaurs line a winding trail and lead to the Tracks Museum, which houses fossilized dino footprints (and everything you ever wanted to know about them). And for us, no trip would be complete without a white water rafting ride down the Colorado River.
The bustling capital city of Spain is calling. We would start the trip getting our bearings with a pro by taking a 2–3 hour Madrid for Kids Walking Tour, offered by Devour Madrid (they make a point to say is comes with SNACKS). Then we’d spend a day wandering the Casa de Campo, Madrid’s largest park, where we could hit the zoo and rent a rowboat to explore the lake. A visit to the Mercado de San Miguel, a huge bustling fresh food market, would be a must, to stock our Airbnb or Kid & Coe with snacks and sample all local delicacies. Or, if we went the hotel route, we’ve got our eyes set on design-centric options Barceló Torre de Madrid (it’s got a pool with city views) and TÓTEM Madrid, as well as the classic Hotel Santo Mauro. The city is packed with museums and cultural centers, but the Casa Museo de Ratón Pérez is by far the cutest we’ve ever heard of. It’s a museum dedicated to Spain’s version of the tooth fairy—a little mouse named El Ratóncito Pérez. Kids can see where the mouse lives with his family, and even check out a collection of baby teeth from Spanish celebs. In addition to hitting the opulent Royal Palace, we’d fill in the blanks with these recs from local Marta Bahillo, mother of three and founder of cult knitwear label Babaà.
If fairy tales are on repeat at bedtime, this is the trip for you. The Turkish town of Cappadocia is studded with Fairy Chimneys, incredible natural rock formations that are the result of centuries of volcanic activity. As if the churches, homes, and hotels carved into the whimsical moonscape weren’t magical enough, visitors can explore the ruins of a network of subterranean cities buried underground that used to house tens of thousands of people. We would hit the Goreme Open Air Museum, home to beautiful rock-cut churches full of magnificently well preserved late Byzantium frescoes from the 10th and 11th century, then enjoy a traditional meal at one of the local restaurants, such as Dibek, where guests are seated on colorful rugs and floor cushions and eat traditionally prepared local food inside a structure that is nearly five centuries old (we’ve heard you shouldn’t skip a chance to try the local wine). And no trip would be complete without a flight in one of dozens of hot air balloons that dot the skyline. Most operators have a minimum rider age of 5, and the tours last 45-60 minutes.
Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
The next time we are itching for a long weekend, this is the destination. Just a 4-hour drive from L.A. (or less than 1 hour from San Diego), this is one of the easiest international getaways around. It’s simple to score an affordable Airbnb right on the Pacific in Ensenada, where chill beach life awaits—we can already imagine dining in our bathing suits on absurdly-fresh coctel de mariscos, aguachiles, and cold Pacificos while colorful roosters cluck nearby. This slice of the coast is known for its natural geysers and hot springs, such as La Bufadora—one of the largest marine blowholes in the world—and we would definitely do as the locals do and make a DIY hot tub by digging a deep pit in the sand and let the steamy spring water fill it up. Once we were sufficiently soaked and salted, we would make the 30-minute drive inland to Valle de Guadalupe, the “Napa Valley of Mexico,” where wineries, boutique hotels, and award-winning restaurants are tucked along winding roads lined with grapevines. We would check into El Cielo—a long-celebrated winery that just added a collection of well-designed casitas perfect for families, and be sure to get a meal in at Finca Altonzano, the wildly popular asador campestre restaurant owned by celebrity chef Javaier Plascencia. While the food is outstanding, the place is known for its chill vibe, outdoor dining, house-made bread, and friendly ranch dogs that like to mingle.
From the endless urban light show that is Tokyo to the gilded temples of Kyoto—and the 300-miles-per-hour train that will shoot you from one place to the other—Japan offers up the ultimate family adventure. When the kids wake up before the sun (thanks, je tlag!), we would head in the direction of Tokyo’s world-famous Tsukiji fish market, where the always lively fish auction takes places every morning at 4:30 a.m. After a sushi breakfast at one of the stalls that ring the market, we would wander over to Chuo-dori, a fun shopping street closed to cars on weekends and anchored by a 30-year-old toy store called Hakuhinkan. Kyoto offers a slower pace and a chance to stay at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn complete with tatami sleeping mats, communal baths, and meals of kaiseki (traditional Japanese multi-course cuisine). Curious how Disney is done overseas? Tokyo Disney is located just 15 minutes from Tokyo Station and includes Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, and, of course, plenty of hotels staffed by knights and princesses.
This hilly, historical city is a feast for the senses, and we dream of seeing its ancient pastel buildings, hand-painted tile walls and floors (known as calçada portuguesa), and cobblestone streets for ourselves. We would exist on richly spiced seafood dishes and all the sheep’s milk cheeses. Plus, we’ve heard about Martinhal Lisbon Chiado Family Suites, which offers spacious apartments (with housekeeping, washer and dryer, and even espresso machines!) in downtown Lisbon and provides perks such as a baby concierge, pajama parties, and kid-friendly meals. And get this—there’s an onsite kids’ club with complementary childcare during the day. We’d use that as an excuse to dip out on our own and try the celebrated restaurant Cervejaria Ramiro. While back on parent duty, our perfect day would include visits to Oceanario, one of the largest aquariums in Europe, and the Pavilion of Knowledge, an epic science center, and of course a ride on the historic yellow streetcars and aerial trams. And, if we are up for taking a 30-minute journey outside of Lisbon, Marinhal’s family-friendly, waterfront resort at Cascais awaits.
With a handful of new territories claiming to be “the new wine country,” Sonoma is proving why it’s still the real deal. We would waste a whole day at Scribe Winery, where you can sip their celebrated white pinot noir and enjoy lunch from one of the most picturesque picnic tables on the West Coast (surrounded by plenty of room for the kids to roam and run). A night (or three) at Auto Camp—a high-design glamping property outfitted with a collection of tricked out Airstreams and cool canvas tents—would be our home base of choice with kids. But if we had a night to ourselves, we would definitely want to check out the new Japanese-inspired Gaige House + Ryokan, or—if we wanted more of an Italian getaway feel—the swanky Kenwood Inn & Spa. While with the kiddos, a trip to see the majestic redwoods of Sonoma County would also be a must.
New York, New York
NYC may seem like old news to you, but imagine being a kid and seeing it for the first time. Think ducking down into the subway, shooting up to the top of the Empire State Building, and running up and down the Highline. Stops at all the iconic sites would be a must—like the Met, the Statue of Liberty (take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry for the best view) and Central Park. We would definitely stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge and then play for a stay at the ever-growing 84-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park where you can take a spin on a carousel, romp in numerous playgrounds or rent roller skates and rule the rink. From there, if we had any juice left, we would hit the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. And if you really want to indulge, this cupcake tour of Greenwich Village would be frosting on the cake.
Where are you dreaming of jetting off to this year? Let us know in the comments below.
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