Planning to take the kids, the parents or the kids and the parents someplace special? With extended-family vacations trending, you have plenty of options.
"Older generations are close with their kids in different ways than in the past. They’re friends as well as family,” says Regina Baraban, founder of Miami-based Generations Go Travel. “And the quest for experiences over possessions — a value shared by boomers, millennials and GenZ’s — also fuels the popularity of multi-gen travel.”
Here’s a sampling of destinations that offer fresh activities, great values, dining and attractive scenery for everyone in the family.
Hocking Hills, Ohio
Vacay in Ohio’s enchanted Hocking Hills without roughing it. Smooth, well-maintained trails traverse lush woodlands surrounded by dramatic sandstone cliffs, waterfalls and massive recess caves where American Indians once dwelled. Watch for ruby-throated hummingbirds, red-shouldered hawks and other species drawn to this region’s unusual microclimate.
Tucked in these hills is the perfect place to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 moon landing: the new, free John Glenn Astronomy Park. View the constellations through 12 high-power telescopes. This July 20, staff will recount minute-by-minute events of the Apollo 11 landing. Park entry and Friday/Saturday programs are free; reserve free parking in advance at registration.jgap.org
Overnight at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls in well-outfitted cabins, yurts and new lodges, all with kitchens. Enjoy gourmet dining in a 1840s log cabin (joined to a hidden bar for adults). The lodges, which sleep 10 to 24 people, have game rooms, Ping-Pong, billiards, patios, party-size hot tubs and firepits.
After hiking and kayaking, refuel at Pizza Crossing and Millstone BBQ. At the Hocking Hills Welcome Center, visit the Pencil Sharpener Museum.
The airport is 40 miles north, in cool-cosmopolitan Columbus. Visit the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum, stroll the riverfront park through downtown and hit the world-class Center of Science and Industry (COSI), a riverfront warehouse filled with a dinosaur gallery, planetarium, giant-screen theater, hands-on Tech Studio and, through summer, “Dragons, Unicorns & Mermaids: Mythic Creatures.”
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Indulge at a family-focused, luxury, all-inclusive resort on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. In colorful Puerto Vallarta, Velas Vallarta’s two- and three-bedroom family suites (2,000-plus square feet) feature interconnecting rooms, kitchens and private ocean-view terraces. Frequent promotions allow children 4 to 17 to stay free when sharing a room with adults; kids younger than 4 always stay free.
Offering 10 acres of beach of Banderas Bay beachfront with views of the Sierra Madre Mountains, three swimming pools, a waterfall and swim-up bar with cocktails and juices, this is a place for quality family time with daily and nightly recreational and cultural activities that engage even those with short attention spans.
All-inclusive offerings include tennis, yoga, all-day gourmet selections at two restaurants that cater to all appetites (including stealthily healthy) and outdoor shows. Free classes, too: Mexican cooking, Spanish, pinata-making, Mariachi music, Arte en Popotillo (straw mosaics), even pickleball. Build professional sand castles, join human-foosball tournaments, take guided city heritage and shopping tours.
To give grown-ups alone time, which can involve the area’s famous tequila tastings, the resort offers a well-supervised kids’ club. Other cool factors: kid-size bathrobes and the tropical garden’s resident iguana.
A short walk from the resort is championship golf at Marina Vallarta’s 18-hole course and Puerto Vallarta’s shoppers’ paradise. A half-hour south of downtown, where the mountains meet the sea, is another family-friendly all-inclusive, Costa Sur Resort.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
Everyone can feel like a kid at this Florida Gulf Coast playground.
TripAdvisor has ranked Clearwater Beach “America’s Best Beach” for the second year in a row. Swim in the blue-green waters, sunbathe or play volleyball on the wide, free-access, sugar-sand beaches. Watch for birds and dolphins. Hop on day cruises and amusement rides. Every evening, enjoy free sunset festivals with music, crafts and entertainers at Pier 60.
After bicycling the Beach Walk, pedal over the sun-sparkled intracoastal waterway to the 47-mile flat-terrain Pinellas Trail. With Clearwater as its midpoint, it’s among the world’s best rail-to-trail conversions. Near the causeway in Dunedin, check out the hundreds of dogs populating the “Dog-edin” mural.
At Clearwater Marine Aquarium, visit rescued marine animals such as Winter, the bottlenose dolphin who inspired the “Dolphin Tale” movies. The aquarium’s educational programs captivate all ages.
Waterview family dining choices include Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill’s Floribbean dishes, Clear Sky Beachside Café’s gourmet pizzas and Sea-Guini’s handmade traditional and gluten-free pastas (check out the bubble wall).
Gulf-front luxury doesn’t have to break the bank. Opal Sands Resort, a Condé Nast Traveler 2019 Readers’ Choice nominee, offers spacious suites and a zero-entry pool. Dogs are welcome, too. In 2017, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach opened two 15-story stunning towers with a spa.
The city has become a new family travel boomtown with its expanded River Walk. Along the River Walk’s Mission Reach, bike and walk the flat trail that connects downtown to four historic Spanish Colonial missions. One stretch winds through a restored river habitat. Gentle waters here are great for kayaking. Kayak and bike rentals are available along the way, including SWell Cycle racks.
Along River Walk’s Downtown Reach, hop on a Go Rio river cruise or wander to the legendary Alamo, the new LEGOLAND Discovery Center and the intriguing Briscoe Western Art Museum. In this neighborhood, it’s common to see four generations of families dining at La Panaderia and Viva Villa Taqueria.
From downtown, walk, bike or take a river shuttle to Pearl, the San Antonio Museum of Art or to The Luxury, a funky picnic spot where locals get noshes from cargo containers and play on riverfront swings.
Pearl, based on a brewery campus opened in the 1800s, rocks with indie shops, eateries and Hotel Emma. Opened in 2015, Hotel Emma’s amenities include cribs, personalized kiddie backpacks, connecting rooms, babysitting, loaner bicycles and guest programs from chocolate-making to crafting heritage decorations. After splashing in Gustav’s Geysers, graze on veggie, ramen noodle and other cuisines at the Bottling Department food court.
From Pearl, catch the VIVA Culture bus ($2.75 day pass) to edu-tainments at the indoor-outdoor DoSeum and recently renovated Witte Museum.
There’s nearly always a free event. Fiesta Noche del Rio, Friday and Saturday nights through Aug. 10 features costumed dancers and concerts. November’s Dia de los Muertos proves San Antonio can turn any theme into one big happy family extravaganza.