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Best Of: Family Vacation Spots

This was our mountain-top paradise for a week. What's your favorite spot for a family vacation? © We Are Both Right

Was it that cabin at the lake? Or the beach in Mexico?

No matter how close or far it may have been from home, every family has a favorite vacation spot. Or two. Or three.

If you could go back every year, you would. But in the meantime, you can recall the sound of the ocean rolling in as the kids played contentedly for hours in the sand. The whole family still laughs at the mention of a mountain goat, because, well you remember that time at the zoo. And still nothing has ever come close to the homemade ice cream you had three years ago in that sleepy little town in Vermont.

Here we share a few of our favorite vacation spots — all five-star family-friendly rated in our book. Add a few of yours, and we’ll be ready with the bags packed.

AMANDA:
Estes Park, Colorado: Our ultimate vacation, the one we judge all others by. Normally our trips are on the shorter side — four or five days max — but for this sojourn to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, we took a full week. We traveled with Suzanne and her family and then met my husband’s brother and his wife and young son (they are lucky enough to live in the Denver area) there. I have so many wonderful memories from that trip — getting caught in a thunderstorm atop the Rocky Mountains; a stumbled upon, amazing meal in a French restaurant on Bastille Day; watching my kids catch their first fish in a stocked pond — I could write pages upon pages of our wonderful time and still have more to add. A perfect mix of relaxation and activity, made even more amazing that we got to spend it with our dear friends and family, we are constantly promising ourselves we will go back soon.

Cruise to Canada: A few years ago, before our third child came along, we took a cruise to two different ports in Canada with our two school-age children and my parents. We had a ball. While we grown-ups enjoyed the scenery, the expeditions and the country and just being on vacation, I don’t think the kids even cared where we were going. They embraced cruise ship life like seasoned travelers, running from buffet to buffet; going for dips in the hot tub (even though we went in late June/early July it was too cold for the pool); dancing till the wee hours of the morning to the various bands on board and laying out on lounge chairs, sipping their mocktails. They cried — sobbed — when it was time to leave, begging us to stay on board just a bit longer. And whenever we start talking about where we’d like to go on our next trip, I swear they both start humming the theme to “The Love Boat.”

Niagra Falls, New York: One of the more visually-stunning trips we have ever been on, Niagra Falls was also incredibly family friendly. We were lucky enough to have a hotel room that overlooked the falls, so we spent plenty of time just gazing out of our window. We went in April so unfortunately, many things were closed, but we made the most of what was open, going on countless hikes near and around the falls and just wandering through the town. I wasn’t sure if our kids would be old enough to grasp the magnitude of what they were seeing, but one “WHOA!” out of my son and I knew they were able to appreciate it as much as I did.

SUZANNE:
San Diego, California: Sandwiched in between a first trip to Disneyland and a few days in Los Angeles, the time we spent in San Diego this past fall was nothing short of perfect. The glorious weather was the ultimate backdrop for splashing in the Pacific, exploring the enormous San Diego Zoo, and eating at sidewalk tacquerias for dinner. We drove the length of Coronado and saw everything from naval ships to birds of paradise in the Hotel del Coronado gardens. Even the kelp on the beach intrigued my son. It was also the first trip to be seared into my daughter’s permanent memory and to hear her talk about it months later, she just might always equate vacation with California.

Estes Park, Colorado: Since Amanda took up her allotted space but could have used more to talk about this awesome vacation spot, I can pick up where she left off. That tri-family trip we took had fun built in from the start. Our kids could have stayed in the cabin-like condo all day and waited for the bears to show up, and still had fun. But the fact that we took long rides through the national park which was literally outside our door made it all the more exciting. They saw moose and elk up close. We rode above the tree line and had snowball fights in July. They ended each evening with a confection or two from the caramel apple/ice cream shop downtown. And we all got our fill of that pure mountain air — just thin enough that they went to sleep by 9 every night.

Acadia National Park, Maine: This was a road trip for us the summer our son turned two. Not knowing just how much he would get out of it, we were pleasantly surprised. The sailboat ride we took found him nestled between two of the captain’s golden retrievers, playing tunes with spoons as he watched his Daddy try his hand at hoisting the sails. The car ride through the national park was one of the more manageable we have taken in any part of the country, since it really only took an hour or two to stop along the way at the scenic overlooks and enjoy a lunchtime picnic of lobster rolls. And since it’s always the unexpected experiences which make a trip for us, we reveled in the freedom to walk through downtown Bar Harbor at night, sampling lobster ice cream and letting off some pre-bedtime steam with the little one at a concert on the lawn.

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What about you and your family? Where is your favorite family vacation spot? Comment below or visit our Facebook page and read where others like to go when they get away.

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