5 Surprising Destinations for Family Travel

It’s no secret that traveling with children has some limitations. (Who’s signing up for zip lining or a wine tour with young kids in tow?) But that doesn’t mean you have to feel constrained to focusing on mouse ears and a top 10 amusement parks list. Check out these top destinations and it just might surprise you how great these spots are for families.

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Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Wingaersheek (pronounced Wing-er-sheek) Beach near Gloucester, Massachusetts, is great for families because the sea here is like one giant bathtub. The ocean at Wingaersheek is largely protected by the Ipswitch peninsula, so it's usually calm and warm, creating perfect swimming conditions for the little ones. At low tide, sand flats seem to stretch forever (or at least to the Annisquam River). 960 1280

Garry Black / Getty Images  

Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Another benefit: glorious tide pools, which are perfect places for inquisitive tykes to get up-close-and-personal with snails, hermit crabs, sea stars and other critters. Perhaps the only downside to this natural treasure is parking; since beach access is smack in the middle of a residential area, daily fees can be steep. 960 1280

Garry Black / Getty Images  

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

Pocket beaches are plentiful along the San Mateo County Coast south of San Francisco, but Bean Hollow offers something different: privacy. Bookended by wind- and water-carved bluffs, the beach has a number of natural nooks and crannies that are perfect for family picnics--and Frisbee, book-reading or some serious sunbathing. 960 1280

A K Potts Photography / Getty Images  

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

There's also a self-guided nature trail that winds atop the bluffs, offering a great vantage point from which to see passing grey whales (in the winter and spring). Three miles up the road, in the sleepy town of Pescadero, be sure to bring the family on a tour of Harley Farms Goat Dairy, where kids can feed, pet and even milk a bunch of alpine goats. 960 1280

Mark Miller Photos / Getty Images  

Robert Moses State Park - New York

Robert Moses State Park - New York

When most New Yorkers seek ocean waves, they flock to Jones Beach, one of the oldest and most famous stretches of shore on the Eastern Seaboard. Farther east along the Fire Island National Seashore, however, is another beach that sees far less tourist traffic: Robert Moses State Park. Kids will love wake-boarding and wave-jumping in the lively surf; parents will appreciate that the beach isn't crawling with humans. 960 1280

Stephen O'Byrne / Getty Images  

Robert Moses State Park - New York

Robert Moses State Park - New York

Toward the eastern end of the beach, past Field 5, the circa-1891, black-and-white ringed Fire Island Lighthouse, is a living window into the past, offering tours and historical photos of yesteryear. Be warned: just beyond the lighthouse is a nude beach. 960 1280

rickberk / Getty Images  

Kure Beach - North Carolina

Kure Beach - North Carolina

This tiny seaside community sits at the southern tip of North Carolina's Pleasure Island--a strip of barrier beaches that front the Atlantic--and while some of its northern neighbors are teeming with tourists in the summer, Kure remains fairly empty. That's good news for vacationing families, who usually have most of the town's attractions to themselves. 960 1280

Gary Tognoni / Getty Images  

Kure Beach - North Carolina

Kure Beach - North Carolina

On the list of must-sees: the fishing pier, which is the oldest on the Atlantic Coast; and the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Center, which spotlights shipwrecks and dive sites nearby. The ocean beaches are breathtaking; for a more off-beat experience, hike the trail at sound-side Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and look for native plants and animals along the way. 960 1280

Gary Tognoni / Getty Images  

Ebey's Landing - Washington

Ebey's Landing - Washington

Technically speaking, Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve contains 17,500 acres, 18 farms, 400 historical structures, two state parks and the second-oldest town in the state of Washington (Coupeville). We, however, love its beach best. On a clear day, the rocky, driftwood-strewn shoreline serves up too-amazing-to-believe views of the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier off in the distance. 960 1280

Randall J Hodges / Getty Images  

Ebey's Landing - Washington

Ebey's Landing - Washington

A three-mile bluff trail provides even more perspective on these sites, and some good (read: protected from the elements) picnic spots for the family to spend an hour. For children who appreciate wildlife, nearby saltwater lagoons and wetland marshes are teeming with birds; with the right pair of binoculars, it's like going to the zoo, only free. 960 1280

nik wheeler / Getty Images  

Kentucky State Fair

Kentucky State Fair

The Bluegrass State's big-name concerts -- including Rascal Flatts, Journey and Hank Williams Jr. -- and serious horse shows draw over 600,000 visitors to the state fair in Louisville each year. 960 1280

Kentucky State Fair  

California State Fair

California State Fair

California's State Fair in Sacramento earns the nickname "Big Fun" with a petting zoo and water park for kids, as well as live thoroughbred racing and a brewfest for adults. 960 1280

California State Fair  

Oregon State Fair

Oregon State Fair

The Oregon State Fair's biggest attractions in Salem include the Hart of the Garden made up of over 8,000 flowers and the Fairlift which gives visitors a bird's-eye-view as it travels from one end of the fairgrounds to the other. 960 1280

Oregon State Fair  

State Fair of Texas

State Fair of Texas

It's true that everything's bigger in Texas, including its state fair in Dallas which draws over 3 million people annually to see the 52-foot-tall mascot Big Tex and eat an astonishing array of fried foods. 960 1280

Kevin Brown/State Fair of Texas  

Arizona State Fair

Arizona State Fair

With over 75 rides, 100 food booths, a stellar concert lineup and warm weather, it's easy to see why the Arizona State Fair draws over 1 million visitors to Phoenix in October and November. 960 1280

Jillian Danielson  

Ohio State Fair

Ohio State Fair

In addition to agriculture, the Ohio State Fair in Columbus is heavy on entertainment where you can hear the likes of Gavin DeGraw, Jason Aldean or see a new star born during Ohio Idol. 960 1280

Ohio State Fair  

Puyallup Fair

Puyallup Fair

Don't let the name fool you, this is Washington's largest fair which draws 1.3 million visitors to Puyallup each year for rides, rodeo and the new Rainforest Adventure, where kids get the chance to experience an authentic tropical rainforest atmosphere in a lush exhibit complete with toucans, anacondas, snapping turtles, and more. 960 1280

anaxila, flickr  

Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair

Like most fairs, one of the biggest draws to the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights is the live music at the Grandstand. The second-biggest state fair in the country (second only to Texas which runs twice as long) offers entertainment that ranges from country music legend Alan Jackson to stock car races to the ever-popular live broadcast of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. 960 1280

Minnesota State Fair  

Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair's slogan is "nothing compares," and it's true nothing compares to the life-size, 600-pound butter cow on display for the more than a million fairgoers in Des Moines each year. It also one-ups a fair staple: Food on-a-stick, offering over 50 types including the deep-fried cupcake and hot bologna on a stick. 960 1280

Iowa State Fair  

Wisconsin State Fair

Wisconsin State Fair

Held just outside Milwaukee in West Allis, otherwise known as America's Dairyland, it's no surprise the biggest attraction at the Wisconsin State Fair is the cream puffs -- betcha can't eat just one. 960 1280

Wisconsin State Fair Park  

The Big E Fair

The Big E Fair

Even though it’s located in Springfield, Massachusetts, The Big E Fair is actually New England's regional fair. Despite not technically qualifying as a state fair, any fair where you can try Maine lobster and baked potatoes as well as Vermont's maple syrup and Ben and Jerry's ice cream easily makes this list. 960 1280

TheBigE_ESE, flickr  

10 Photos
The Great Vermont Corn Maze

The Great Vermont Corn Maze

What makes a corn maze great? A 32-foot underground tunnel and a 30-foot cabin cruiser that "sails" on top of the corn. This third-generation dairy farm unveils an entirely new maze design in North Danville, VT, each year. 960 1280

Robert Lyons Photography  

Sever's Corn Maze

Sever's Corn Maze

Self-proclaimed the "Midwest's original corn maze," Sever's is now in its 16th year, and offers Pumpkin Blasters and pumpkin patches in addition to its twisted 14-acre maze. 960 1280

Social Media Breakfast, flickr  

Kraay Family Farms

Kraay Family Farms

The only "tech" that usually comes with a corn maze is a flashlight -- but not at this Alberta, Canada, farm. The Kraay family has been crafting corn mazes since 1999 and this year they earned the Guinness World Record for the Largest QR code. Of course, you need a smartphone and a plane to test it out. 960 1280

Reuben Kraay  

Treinen Farm

Treinen Farm

Wisconsin's largest corn maze is 15 acres (14 and a half football fields) of twists, turns and dead ends. 960 1280

Treinen Farm Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch  

Happy Day Farm

Happy Day Farm

This "New Jersey Grown" maze offers 10 acres and lots of games to entertain the whole family in Manalapan, NJ. 960 1280

Happy Day Farm  

Connors Farm

Connors Farm

The Connors Farm's haunted corn maze in Danvers, MA, embraced a spooky "Witches of Salem" theme this year. 960 1280

  

Cherry Crest Adventure Farm

Cherry Crest Adventure Farm

Families can spend about an hour in this mind-bending corn maze, exploring over 2.5 miles of paths and scenic bridges with the help of 2 Maze Masters and clues. 960 1280

Cathy Kornfield  

Queens Country Farm Museum

Queens Country Farm Museum

Don't let its size fool you. With just 3 acres in Floral Park, NY, Queens Country Farm Museum designed a tightly-wound 45-minute maze. Afraid you're not up to the challenge? There are clues in 9 hidden mailboxes and corn-styled phones to "tele-stalk" staff for help. 960 1280

Skyviews Survey Aerial Photography  

Long and Scott Farms

Long and Scott Farms

You don't have to be up north to get lost in a spooky maze. People in Mt. Dora, FL, reap the benefits of warm weather and can enjoy this 10-year-old maze until December. 960 1280

Long & Scott Farms  

Richardson Farm

Richardson Farm

Not too many farms can handle 4 separate mazes winding through 33 acres of corn. With 24 hidden checkpoints and 3 wooden bridges, the possibilities are endless at Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove, IL. 960 1280

Richardson Farm  

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