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Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

UT 12 winds through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which protects 1.88-million acres of landscape containing unique Native American and geological sites, including petroglyphs, fossils and natural arches. With its quiet backroads, spectacular national parks and monuments, the large area called the Grand Circle that encompasses southern Utah and northern Arizona makes for one of the most memorable road trips in the United States. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

The Wave, Utah/Arizona border

The Wave, Utah/Arizona border

The Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness on the Utah/Arizona border near Kanab, Utah, requires a permit from the Bureau of Land Management and a difficult hike to reach. The payoff is remote, otherworldly scenery and the surreal swoop of sandstone called The Wave, formed by wind erosion. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah's first national park, was created in 1909 and is renowned for its red cliffs, hidden gardens, waterfalls and emerald pools. It is a favorite destination for hikers worldwide. 960 1280

AndrewSoundarajan  

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park was established in 1928 and protects a colorful landscape of sandstone spires called hoodoos that were formed through eons of freeze-thaw erosion. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park protects 378-square-miles of colorful landscape and historic human inhabitation, including ruins left by ancient Native Americans and Mormon settlers in the 1880s. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Fremont Petroglyphs, Utah

Fremont Petroglyphs, Utah

Located in Captial Reef National Park, these petroglyphs were left by the Fremont Culture some 2,000 years ago. Utah's striking landscapes and public lands contribute to Utah's $7.4 billion tourism industry. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah

Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, protects more than 2,000 natural stone arches, including Double Arch, pictured here. 960 1280

  

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Natural Bridges National Monument protects natural arches (including the pictured Sipapu Bridge), Native American ruins and a lush riparian watershed. President Theodore Roosevelt declared the site a national monument in 1908. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Gooseneck State Park

Gooseneck State Park

Gooseneck State Park near Mexican Hat, Utah, is a popular photo and camping stop with eight first-come-first-serve sites. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

One of Utah's "Might 5" national parks, Canyonlands National Park is a playground for outdoor adventurers. Mountain bikers, four-wheelers, hikers and backpackers explore these 337,598 acres of unique geology and Native American ruins. 960 1280

Jeremy Pawlowski  

Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

Bears Ears National Monument, Utah

Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, established by President Obama in 2016, protects hundreds of Native American archaeological sites. The area is still an important source of traditional resources and spiritual significance to several Native American tribes, including the Navajo Nation. Bears Ears National Monument encompasses Valley of the Gods. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Bluff, Utah

Bluff, Utah

Bluff, Utah, is a gateway to many of Utah's popular destinations including Bears Ears National Monument, and is home to the Twin Rocks Cafe, name for the towering rock formation behind it. Many areas in Utah are revered for their dark night skies, which are among darkest in North America. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Cow Canyon Trading Post, Bluff, Utah

Cow Canyon Trading Post, Bluff, Utah

This weathered 1949 Buick Super parked in front of Cow Canyon Trading Post in Bluff has become a must-stop photo attraction for road trippers. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

US 163 on the Utah/Arizona border

US 163 on the Utah/Arizona border

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park as seen driving south on US 163 from Utah into Arizona. The entrance to the park is on the Utah and Arizona border. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah/Arizona

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah/Arizona

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is called Tse'Bii'Ndzisgaii in the Diné language and means "Valley of the Rocks." This iconic 91,696-acre park has been featured in many movies and has come to symbolize the American West. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Antelope Canyon east of Page, Arizona, is a surreal labyrinth of slot canyons on Navajo tribal land. A Navajo guide is required to visit the site, and several tour operators are located in Page. It got its English name from the herd of pronghorn antelope that used to live in the area. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

The Colorado River flows through Horseshoe Bend four miles south of Page, Arizona, accessed via a 3/4-mile-long trail on the west side of US 89. It is 1,000 feet from the canyon rim to the water. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Hopi Pueblo, Arizona

Hopi Pueblo, Arizona

Hopi dancer Kyle Chase of the Pollen Trail Dancers displays his talent throughout the Southwest, including at Grand Canyon National Park. Hopi Pueblo consists of three ancient villages east of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The Hopi Cultural Center off of AZ 264 in Second Mesa details the history and culture of the tribe, and the tribally owned Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites near Tuba City makes a good road trip rest stop. 960 1280

  

Cameron Trading Post, Arizona

Cameron Trading Post, Arizona

A Navajo master weaver demonstrate her skill in the Cameron Trading Post weaving room. Cameron Trading Post, located 30 minutes from the Grand Canyon's East Entrance on AZ 64, is a trading post, restaurant and hotel that was built in 1916. 960 1280

STEVE LARESE  

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park is 277 miles long and 18 miles across at its widest point between the north and south rims, and one mile at its deepest. It was established in 1919 by President Theodore Roosevelt, who said of it: "The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison–beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world...Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see." 960 1280

Steve Larese   

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

This set of 3 western Caribbean islands has a ton of things to offer families who can afford to visit. Take the family swimming at Stingray City, where the kids can get up close and personal with stingrays in their natural habitat. And while you’re in a touchy-feely mood, visit Cayman Turtle Farm where the kids will love petting the marine park’s 362 turtles. The park also has breeding ponds and a hatchery where kids can interact with turtles of all sizes while learning through interactive displays about the incubation process. There’s also a tidal lagoon for snorkeling with tropical fish.

If your kids prefer to stay dry, Atlantis Submarines, a fleet of submarine and semi-submarine vessels, will take them underwater to see shipwrecks, reefs and coral canyons. As long as your little one is at least 3 feet tall, they can enjoy this undersea adventure. However, if they’re not, or you want to just frolic in the ocean, Cayman has no shortage of picturesque Caribbean beaches, such as the powdery sands of 7 Mile Beach, the most popular beach on the island. 

WHEN TO GO: If you don’t mind the heat, the best time to visit Grand Cayman is in July, when it’s low season for tourists. 

WHERE TO STAY: The Holiday Inn Grand Caymanian resort, located on the North Sound of Grand Cayman, is one of the best options for a secluded retreat from the action of Seven Mile Beach. 
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Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn, New York

Those of us who've grown up in New York's biggest borough have always known what it has to offer. For families, Brooklyn is a more affordable and less hectic option than Manhattan. Take a leisurely walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for a clear view of the New York City skyline. 

Spend the day at the Brooklyn Museum or the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the country’s first children's museum. At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, you’ll find a 52-acre horticultural paradise and less than a mile away, in Prospect Park, you can enjoy the zoo, home to animals from diverse corners of the world such as prairie dogs, dingoes and red pandas. 

Also you can enjoy a picnic on the 12-acre grounds. Hop on the Q Train and head down toConey Island, where you and the kids can brace yourselves for a ride on the historic Cyclone, one of the nation’s oldest roller coasters. A few blocks down, visit the New York Aquarium and see one of the few baby walruses in any aquarium in the United States. 

WHEN TO GO: In early June, right before the heat and high humidity have set in. The locals come out of hibernation and the weekend street festivals begin. 

WHERE TO STAY: The New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge is in a prime location, Brooklyn Heights, and offers a stunning view of the city.
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Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

The Poconos may be well-known for its heart-shaped tubs and romantic suites, but this 2,400-square-mile stretch of Pennsylvania is more than just champagne and bubble baths. If your family loves the outdoors, there’s no shortage of things to enjoy either, like hanging out at Camelback Mountain’s waterpark or hiking near waterfalls such as Bushkill Falls. 

With 150 lakes in the area families can take a boat tour on Lake Wallenpaupack, go fishing at Skytop Lodge, white-water rafting along the Delaware River, tubing and canoeing in Milford, PA, water skiing in Beltzville State Park, and kayaking in Jim Thorpe, PA. 

WHEN TO GO: The Pocono Mountains has a plethora of activities throughout the seasons, so there’s really no right or wrong time to visit. 

WHERE TO STAY: The Poconos are home to over a dozen family resorts, from all-inclusive properties such as the Skytop Lodge to affordable, a la carte accommodations such as the Inn at Pocono Manor.
960 1280

A.GREENHILL  

Bloomington, Minnesota

Bloomington, Minnesota

If you don’t know much about Bloomington as a great family destination, you should. This suburb of Minneapolis has golf courses, art centers, wineries and vineyards, all perfect activities for mom and dad. Bloomington is also home to the Mall of America, a destination in and of itself. The mall is the second largest in the United States and the most visited mall in the world. 

Besides shopping and dining, families can visit Nickelodeon Universe, the country’s largest indoor amusement park, and SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, home to more than 10,000 sea creatures including sharks, stingrays and sea turtles. The kids will love Valleyfair, a 125-acre amusement park, and Water Park of America, the largest indoor waterpark in the United States. 

Visit Normandale Japanese Garden for rest and tranquility after all the excitement, or hop on an old-fashioned trolley to explore historic sites like the Cathedral of St. Paul, built in the early 1900s. A host of outdoor water activities such as swimming, fishing, kayaking and windsurfing on “The Lakes,” add to the range of options that make Bloomington an attractive destination for families. 

WHEN TO GO: In the summer months -- a great time to cool off in America’s largest indoor waterpark! 

WHERE TO STAY: The Hilton Minneapolis, the Sofitel or the Homewood Suites -- all family-friendly hotels near Bloomington’s major attractions.
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Ken Wolter  

San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica

There’s more to Costa Rica’s capital than rainforests and jungles, although your kids will love those, too. Families can learn about Costa Rican culture at small community museums in towns like San Vicente, Nicoya; at the National Museum (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica) in San Jose; and the Children’s Museum (Museo de los Niños), home to interactive exhibits on science, history, technology and art.

Enjoy a hike in protected national parks such as Tortuguero National Park, or walk across a suspension bridge in Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, or fish or windsurf on Arenal Lake. Families can skin dive, snorkel, rent jet skis or simply relax at any one of the beaches, such as Playa Cocles in the South Caribbean region or Playas del Coco in the Guanacaste region.

More active families can enjoy mountain biking and horseback riding on Playa Negra in Cahuita, rafting and kayaking on the Pacuare River, zip lining in a Costa Rican forest, or canopy tours in the Monteverde cloud forest. Summer hotel and airline prices are affordable and comparable for a family traveling from Washington, DC, to San Diego.

WHEN TO GO: June through early September, when the Atlantic green sea turtles are nesting. Generally, the earlier in the year (and the earlier in the nesting season) that you book your flight, the less expensive your plane tickets. 

WHERE TO STAY: 
There’s no shortage of big chain and small boutique hotels to choose from in Costa Rica, so choosing accommodations will really depend upon the region you decide to begin your family adventure.
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Makua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Makua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Makua Beach is easy to miss while driving in Oahu, only marked with a small sign marked “Ka’ena Point.” If you make the turn in time, white sands and mountains lay in front of you, leading to warm turquoise waters and a secret sea cave where the waves roll in and lift you up with the slight tide.

 

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Citizen Pictures  

Makua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Makua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

This secret spot might be hard to find off the main highway in Oahu, but if you spot it in time, tidal pools, sea caves and excellent snorkeling await--all without the crowds of nearby beaches. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Makua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Makua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

Part of Ka’ena Point State Park, this beach is the perfect spot for travelers looking for a secluded place to explore. Dive off of the nearby cliffs into warm cyan water, relax in tidal pools and if you’re lucky, swim near dolphins who can sometimes be spotted off the coast. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, Calif.

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, Calif.

Located in the heart of Big Sur, this purple sand beach is a travel photographer’s dream. Bring sturdy shoes to scale rocks for a spectacular view or explore coves near the shore. On clear days, Pfeiffer Beach’s signature landmark, Keyhole Rock, frames the sun rising and setting. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Playa Arcos, Costa Rica

Playa Arcos, Costa Rica

Meaning "arch beach," this ocean oasis lies at the end of a hike through nearby Ballena National Park. Surrounded by rainforests and high cliffs overlooking the ocean, this tranquil marine park is ideal for nature lovers. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Playa Arcos, Costa Rica

Playa Arcos, Costa Rica

In one of Costa Rica’s few protected marine parks, adventurous beachgoers will find the highlight of the beach: the rock cave. Further down the coastline, hidden waterfalls are just around the corner. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine

Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine

Beehive Trail isn’t for the faint of heart -- at nearly a mile high, this hike has built-in iron rungs for trekkers to pull themselves up steep parts of the hike. At the summit, trailblazers are treated with the view of scenic Sand Beach surrounded by trees and mountains. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, Maine

Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, Maine

Located in Acadia National Park, this hidden beach is the perfect swimming spot after a long hike. Over thousands of years, the incoming surf eroded crushed shells that formed the smooth golden sand along the coast. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, Maine

Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, Maine

After a hike on nearby Beehive Mountain or the oceanside trails, Sand Beach is a good spot to rest and enjoy the water. The beach is tucked between forested hillsides and smooth rocks that provide perfect spots for meditation or yoga with a view. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, Maine

Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, Maine

Maine isn’t traditionally known for its beaches, but Sand Beach in Acadia National Park has one of the best views out to sea. Dip at your own discretion as the water stays around 55 degrees Fahrenheit year round, but the views out to sea from shore are breathtaking. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, Maine

Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, Maine

On Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park, outdoorsy adventurers will find challenging hikes and a hidden beach with clear, sparkling water. By sunrise or sunset, the light reflects off of the ocean and makes for a spectacular view from shore or in the surrounding cliffs. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Tulum Beach, Tulum, Mexico

Tulum Beach, Tulum, Mexico

This beach might not be a well-kept secret anymore, but get there early enough in the day and enjoy powder-white sand, diamond-clear water that’s warm enough to laze in for hours, and the view of lush tropical greenery on shore before the tourists start arriving. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Tulum Beach, Tulum, Mexico

Tulum Beach, Tulum, Mexico

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula on the east coast of Mexico, Tulum Beach has something for everyone: ancient archaeological ruins, tropical plants and secret nooks for beachgoers to explore. If you spend the day, you might see iguanas and turtles basking in the sun. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Tulum Beach, Tulum, Mexico

Tulum Beach, Tulum, Mexico

Tulum’s scenic white-sands beach sits on the edge of the endlessly blue Caribbean Sea. On the other side of the shore, this ancient seaside city is full of archaeological ruins from the Mayan era. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Tulum Beach, Tulum, Mexico

Tulum Beach, Tulum, Mexico

Thousands of years ago, Tulum was a major port city full of architecture and culture for the Mayan people. Today, the city’s ancient palaces, pyramids and buildings provide a look into history and overlook the sparkling turquoise water of nearby Tulum Beach. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Al Khaluf Beach, Oman

Al Khaluf Beach, Oman

Located on the east coast of Oman on the Arabian Sea, Al Khaluf Beach is home to a coast of soft, sugar-white sand, calm blue water and a local fishing industry. Take a rugged, all-terrain vehicle to the nearby sand dunes for off-roading adventures. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Praia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Praia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

On the walk down nearby hills, you can spot the brilliant green-blue water and see why this volcanic archipelago in Brazil is one of UNESCO’s Natural World Heritage Sites. Take a boat or walk over hills and climb down stairs to get to the secluded beach, which offers soft sands, warm waves and vibrant marine life. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Praia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Praia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

When in Praia do Sancho, the view above the cerulean water and volcanic formation is just as stunning as the world below the surface. Don’t miss a chance to snorkel and spot manta rays, turtles, colorful fish, flora and fauna. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Alamere Falls Beach, California

Alamere Falls Beach, California

Only an hour’s drive from San Francisco, Alamere Falls Beach is a unique sight to behold after a moderately strenuous but scenic hike with lakes and green forests. Alamere Creek feeds into the freshwater waterfalls, which fall right onto the saltwater beach. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Alamere Falls Beach, California

Alamere Falls Beach, California

The round-trip hike to Alamere Falls Beach tops out at 13 miles and involves clambering down cliffs and dodging poison oak, but it’s worth it to see the grand freshwater waterfalls splashing onto the saltwater beach at the end. These waterfalls are one of only two falls in the state located right on the beach. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Shelter Cove, California

Shelter Cove, California

Located on the Northern California coast, this secluded black pebble beach is a must-visit for nature lovers in the area. Depending on the season, the water might be too tumultuous for a swim, but campers can enjoy an unspoiled ocean view from the shore any time of year. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Shelter Cove, California

Shelter Cove, California

Northern California is full of beautiful hidden beaches, but few are as unspoiled as Shelter Cove. Hardly any development has taken place since Shelter Cove opened to the public, making it a peaceful place for nature enthusiasts to fish, go whale watching and relax in the heart of redwoods country. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Shelter Cove, California

Shelter Cove, California

This black sand beach in California is the ideal spot to unwind, surrounded by redwood trees, mountains and tidal pools. Just off shore, visitors can spot seals, pelicans and sea lions lazing on rocks. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Shelter Cove, California

Shelter Cove, California

Pack a picnic and choose from a handful of hikes to get to this secluded black sand beach in the middle of California’s redwood country. Further down the coast, beachgoers can visit the nearby Cape Mendocino lighthouse and take a swim in tidal pools that dot the coastline. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Located 70 miles west of Key West, the Dry Tortugas are one of the more remote tropical islands in the United States and home to Fort Jefferson, a massive unfinished 19th century military fort turned national park. Bring binoculars in the spring for birdwatching almost 300 migratory bird species and diving gear to explore underwater shipwrecks of centuries past. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Fort Jefferson, the third-largest military fort in the United States and originally built on Garden Key to fend off piracy in the Caribbean, is now a protected national park. Bring camping supplies to set up shop overnight and spend the day touring the fort and going out to sea for scenic diving and snorkeling. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Seventy miles off the coast of Key West lies the Dry Tortugas, a remote tropical island with some of the best diving and snorkeling spots in the United States. Sandy beaches give way to sparkling, warm blue waters, which contain shipwrecks, coral reefs, multitudes of colorful fish and marine life. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Built in the 19th century, Fort Jefferson is a massive unfinished coastal fortress that takes up the majority of the island and sits next to the tropical beach. A guided tour on the Key leads visitors through the fort and out on a boat to go snorkeling or diving. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Marietas Islands, Puertas Vallertas, Mexico

Marietas Islands, Puertas Vallertas, Mexico

Get ready for a boat ride with a view of the blue sky blending into the sparkling, cerulean ocean on the way to the island. Once there, beachgoers swim or snorkel through a cave to get to a hidden beach, where you can paddleboard, snorkel, kayak or just relax with a drink on the powdery white sand. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

Waikiki Beach, Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Waikiki Beach, Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, another Waikiki Beach sits on the Pacific Northwest coast, surrounded by mountain trails, seafoam-crested waves and two lighthouses. Camp overnight to get the full experience of hiking, birdwatching and watching the waves roll in after a storm. 960 1280

Citizen Pictures  

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