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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Family Kingdom

Family Kingdom

Family Kingdom is an oceanfront amusement and water park in one. Splashes the water park takes the lazy river up a notch and offers water flumes with 100-foot drops. Family Kingdom has just added a Twist-and-Shout steel roller coaster to its fleet of more than 30 rides bumper cars and Go-Kart tracks. 960 1280

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Water Sports

Water Sports

If the kids (and adults) are looking for more than just a day at the beach, take part in a popular water sport. Little ones will have fun clinging to a banana boat, older speed demons can take out jet skis -- or pair off and sail high above the water on a parasailing trip. 960 1280

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Miniature Golf

Miniature Golf

As you'd expect from the "golf capital of the world" Myrtle's mini-golf courses don't disappoint. Our top pick? Whimsical Captain Hook's Adventure Golf where the whole family can play through 2 different 18-hole courses – complete with a 15-foot smoking skull. 960 1280

Jason Barnette  

Myrtle Waves Water Park

Myrtle Waves Water Park

At South Carolina's largest water park more than 1 million gallons of water pumps through Waves' raft rides wild rapids and slides. Open mid-May to mid-September families will be pleased to find covered picnic areas and certified lifeguards on duty at all times. 960 1280

Myrtle Waves Water Park  

Medieval Times

Medieval Times

Yes it's pure kitsch but your little knight or princess will get a kick out of Medieval Times' dinner show. Expect an entertaining joisting tournament lots of horses and crowd participation. Just don't expect silverware to come with His Majesty's royal feast. 960 1280

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ATV Tour

ATV Tour

Get the family outdoors and off-roading with Caroline Backwoods ATV adventures. No experience is necessary to explore the approximately 2-hour Down n Dirty and High n Dry (ok semi-dry) trails. Kids under the age of 12 can ride on the back of a family member's ATV. 960 1280

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Children's Museum of South Carolina

Children's Museum of South Carolina

The perfect rainy day activity take the kids to explore the Children's Museum of South Carolina. With weekly story and craft times as well as exhibits like the Imagination Playground and Bubble Mania there's plenty to keep your kids happy and entertained. 960 1280

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WonderWorks

WonderWorks

Chances are your kids will be begging to go to WonderWorks once they spot its upside-down building at Broadway at the Beach but the Anti-Gravity Chamber Bed of Nails Lazer Tag and Ropes Course appeal to kids of all ages -- and some adults too. 960 1280

WonderWorks  

Ripley's Aquarium

Ripley's Aquarium

Like no aquarium you've been to before at Ripley's Aquarium you can glide on a 330-foot moving path beneath the dangerous reef through sharks and stingrays visit rainbow rock (the Indo-Pacific coral reef) and more. 960 1280

Ripley's Aquarium  

MagiQuest

MagiQuest

The world's largest live-action role-playing game MagiQuest allows your kids to enter an enchanted fantasy world and choose their adventure -- all with the wave of a wand! Will they befriend a pixie? Slay a dragon? Learn from an ancient wizard? You guess is as good as ours but we're sure you'll hear all about it. 960 1280

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Pier at Garden City

Pier at Garden City

Every night during the summer, enjoy live music or karaoke at The Pier at Garden City, just 8 miles south of Myrtle Beach. Listen to the music, grab a snack at Sam's Corner diner or let the kids play a few rounds at the arcade. 960 1280

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Frank Theatres Cinebowl & Grille

Frank Theatres Cinebowl & Grille

Summer vacation is synonymous with the summer blockbuster. After a day in the sun head to Frank Theatres Cinebowl & Grille in Murrells Inlet for a little bowling and a big screen. 960 1280

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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  

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