More and more Americans are taking their children where few ventured for family vacations in the past — to far-flung destinations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and South Pacific that offer an exotic and adventurous spin on the traditional summer vacation.
Summer roadtrips are as American as baseball and apple pie. And while the means of transit may have changed from a Country Squire station wagon with suitcases tied to the roof to modern SUVs and recreational vehicles, the basic premise remains the same: Pack the kids, the pets and maybe even grandma into your vehicle and hit the road.
While cruising cross-country is the classic vacation — especially on historic Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles — there are plenty of other themes and options.
Parents with high school kids can plan a whole summer roadtrip around college visits. If you’ve got kids who love sports, why not an East Coast trip that takes in major league baseball at historic venues like Fenway Park in Boston and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx? Then top it off with a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Musical families can plan a drive that includes Nashville, Memphis and Branson, Mo. Take your teens to a major concert or festival like the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., and they’ll love you forever.
If driving long-distance isn’t your thing, limit your vacation to a region with several family destinations in close proximity. The triangle between Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and southern Utah offers a wealth of activities and attractions, including the stunning scenery and hiking trails at Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, along with recreational boating and watersports at Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Families that like to rough it in relative luxury can get as close as possible to the great outdoors by renting an RV from an outfit like Cruise America, which has more than 100 rental locations scattered from sea to shining sea.
Of course, you can’t drive everywhere. Reaching Hawaii — always a five-star tourist option — requires either a two-week sailing trip or a five-hour flight from the West Coast. But once you’re in the islands, the options are endless. And not just fabulous beaches, luaus and outrigger rides. The kids can bike down a volcano on Maui or snorkel with sea turtles off Molokai, learn about the stars at the Onizuka astronomy center on the Big Island or learn to surf on Waikiki Beach.
Who even needs a car when places like New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and San Francisco have such terrific public transportation? Exciting and easily accessible new urban attractions include the wide-ranging and large-scale art exhibitions at the High Line in Manhattan, the rebooted Exploratorium in San Francisco and the totally remade Navy Pier on Lake Michigan in Chicago, with its 50 acres packed with amusement park rides, lake cruises and entertainment. Aside from experiencing the landmarks and history of Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital also has the new kid-friendly International Spy Museum.
For more great summer travel options, go to latimes.com/summertravelseries.