Travel's Best Amusement Parks and Water Parks 2014

From Tokyo’s DisneySea to Tennessee’s Dollywood, our advisors handpicked the most thrilling theme parks for our family fun list, Travel's Best Amusement and Water Parks 2014.

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Best Site for Travel Packages: HolidayPirates.com

Best Site for Travel Packages: HolidayPirates.com

"For great package deals, check out the website HolidayPirates.com. They find incredible deals for packages, flights and more departing to and from Europe. I've found some incredible, hard-to-find offers on that website, like $500-roundtrip flights to Europe or $50 flights from Europe to Turkey." -- Matthew Kepnes, Nomadic Matt 960 1280

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Best Times for Off-Peak Travel: Jan. 15 to Feb. 28; Oct. 15 to May 15

Best Times for Off-Peak Travel: Jan. 15 to Feb. 28; Oct. 15 to May 15

"US Airways offers economy round-trip tickets to Europe from North America for just 35,000 miles from Jan. 15 to Feb. 28. If you have their co-branded credit card, that price drops to 30,000 miles roundtrip. American Airlines also offers off-peak discounted award tickets to Europe from Oct. 15 to May 15 for 40,000 miles, down from the usual 60,000. If you have their co-branded credit card, you can even get 10% of those redeemed miles back, up to an annual cap." -- Summer Hull, Mommy Points 960 1280

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Best Hotel Rewards Program: Starwood Preferred Guest

Best Hotel Rewards Program: Starwood Preferred Guest

"Starwood Preferred Guest is a great hotel program, with a vast portfolio of hotels throughout the world. Redemptions start at just 2,000 points and members have the option to transfer points to dozens of airlines at a 1-to-1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus on every 20,000 points transferred." -- Rick Ingersoll, Frugal Travel Guy 960 1280

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Best Phone App for International Travel: Viber

Best Phone App for International Travel: Viber

"Calling, texting and emailing while abroad can rack up thousands of dollars in fees. However, there are great apps like Viber that you can use for free with an internet connection. Viber users can send free text messages, photo messages, video messages and more with other users, and it’s compatible with iPhone, Android, and other major mobile and desktop devices." -- Brian Kelly, The Points Guy 960 1280

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Best-Value Trip: Eastern Europe

Best-Value Trip: Eastern Europe

"For a great-value trip, head to Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine) for very cheap destinations, great food, friendly people and few tourists. It's the medieval Europe you want without the crowds in Prague or Tallinn." -- Matthew Kepnes, Nomadic Matt 960 1280

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Best Car Rental Option: Costco Travel

Best Car Rental Option: Costco Travel

"If you have a Costco membership, you can get good deals from Costco Travel such as no additional driver fees with certain rental companies. If booking abroad, AutoEurope.com gives good rates in Europe. I used it to book a wagon for a trip to Paris which saved me about 40% off booking directly with the rental company." -- Arthur Hsu, Mileage Runner 960 1280

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Best Frequent Flyer Program: United MileagePlus

Best Frequent Flyer Program: United MileagePlus

"United MileagePlus is a great program, as it offers access to an extensive route network and award inventory. In short, they make it easy to redeem your miles. United miles are also easy to earn, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offering instant 1-to-1 transfer of points to United." -- Rick Ingersoll, Frugal Travel Guy 960 1280

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Best Site for Fare Alerts: Yapta

Best Site for Fare Alerts: Yapta

"If you don’t want to constantly check and recheck websites for the best fares, then sign up for Yapta’s fare alerts. They will automatically keep you updated on the fares you are interested in. All you have to do is set the date(s), city pairs and the price point, and they will alert you via email." -- John E. DiScala, Johnny Jet 960 1280

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Best Site for Blind Travel Bids: BiddingForTravel.com

Best Site for Blind Travel Bids: BiddingForTravel.com

"When I shop around for hotels and car rentals, I don't think there is any better place than Priceline. But keep in mind when you use their Name Your Own Price feature, you can't cancel. Before I make a blind bid, I always log on to BiddingForTravel.com to see what other people's luck was with their bids. It shows how much people paid for which dates and will give you a pretty good idea of which hotel you will end up with." -- John E. DiScala, Johnny Jet 960 1280

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Best Credit Card for Travel: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Best Credit Card for Travel: Chase Sapphire Preferred

"The Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers generous sign-up bonuses and flexible points that can be transferred to both airline and hotel partners. The Sapphire Preferred makes it easy to amass points quickly, with 2x points on travel and dining. The original signup bonuses can be worth over $500 in travel after you meet the required minimum spend, within the first 3 months typically." -- Rick Ingersoll, Frugal Travel Guy 960 1280

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Best Wedding Destination -- Hawaii

Best Wedding Destination -- Hawaii

“A perennial favorite, we predict even more couples will say "I do" in Hawaii now that gay marriage has been legalized there. For picture-perfect nuptials tie the knot in Maui at the romantic Grand Wailea resort or on the increasingly popular, but still less-developed Kauai.” – Sara Gilliam, Interactive Producer 960 1280

Grand Wailea  

Best Overall Travel Trend -- TV and Movies-Inspired Travel

Best Overall Travel Trend -- TV and Movies-Inspired Travel

From Breaking Bad to Hunger Games: Catching Fire, TV and movies in 2013 moved us – from Albuquerque, NM, to Hawaii. Tourism boards are finding this is a great way to market a destination – targeting set-jetting fans wanting to follow the steps of their favorite characters on screen. We’re predicting films such as Grace of Monaco,The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and cult-favorite shows like Games of Thrones will inspire even more fans to travel in 2014.” – Kathleen Rellihan, Interactive Producer 960 1280

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Best Travel Gadget -- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II

Best Travel Gadget -- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II

“This Sony Cyber-shot point-and-shoot camera is the perfect substitute for the photog that does not like hauling around a bulky DSLR camera while on vacation. It's an update to 2013’s model, which is still available, but offers some new features that are useful such as a tilt LCD screen and Wi-Fi so you can connect with your smartphone.”– Arthur Hsu, Video Producer 960 1280

Sony, Electronics, Inc.  

Best International Destination -- Trinidad, Cuba

Best International Destination -- Trinidad, Cuba

“For the first time since the 1960s, flights have resumed from Key West to Havana -- thanks to the eased travel restrictions enacted by the Obama administration in 2011. And more travelers are expected to flock to the island nation next year to help Trinidad, Cuba, celebrate its 500th anniversary. This city is also where the rhythmic foundation of salsa music started. We recommend visitors take a comfortable pair of dancing shoes to experience the series of fiestas and cultural events hosted by this hot travel destination.” – Kwin Mosby, Managing Producer 960 1280

istock  

Best Domestic Location -- Jersey Shore

Best Domestic Location -- Jersey Shore

“What travel spot are we ready to see make a comeback? In 2014, New Jersey celebrates 350 unforgettable years of history, milestones and memories. This is the time to visit the Jersey Shores’ beautiful beaches and boardwalks, which first broke ground in the US on the Jersey Shore in 1870. Enjoy an array of year-long events including restaurant week, concerts and more to commemorate 350 years!” – Rani Robinson, Managing Producer 960 1280

Tony Fischer Photography, flickr  

Best World Event -- Winter Olympics, Sochi

Best World Event -- Winter Olympics, Sochi

“For the first time in history, the Winter Olympic Games will be held in Russia. From February 7 to February 23, fans will flock to northern Eurasia to see some of the world's greatest athletes compete against one another in an attempt to earn respect for their home countries; They're final destination: Sochi. Don't miss out on another amazing sporting event taking place in 2014, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil from June 12 to July 13.” – Ben Breslerman, Interactive Producer 960 1280

Reuters  

Best Tourist Attraction -- Northern Lights

Best Tourist Attraction -- Northern Lights

“Thought this past year was your best chance to see the northern lights? It’s true, the lights whipped up a flurry of solar activity in 2013, but the best is yet to come, with show-stopping displays anticipated well into 2014. NASA is predicting the lights’ solar activity will peak this winter, with aurora borealis displays stretching into the months to come, in places like Iceland’s Lake Myvatn.” -- Lisa Singh Interactive Producer 960 1280

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Best Wellness Travel Trend – Yoga and Volunteer Vacations

Best Wellness Travel Trend – Yoga and Volunteer Vacations

“In 2013, yoga vacations became increasingly popular to detox and decompress outside of yoga studios. And experts are forecasting that volunteer vacations will be on the rise in 2014. So what better way to recharge and support a good cause, than by combing a yoga and volunteer vacation? From volunteering in Kenya with the Africa Yoga Project to yoga and teaching in Kerala, India – there are more and more opportunities available for yoga-loving travelers who want to give back on a feel-good vacation. “ -- Kathleen Rellihan, Interactive Producer 960 1280

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Best Dining Trend – Local Brew Pubs

Best Dining Trend – Local Brew Pubs

“Forget eating local, start drinking local! Whether you’re into IPAs, wheat brews or ambers – craft brewing is definitely on the rise, and so are local brew pubs. These establishments offer a unique experience: see how and where the beer is brewed, get out of your comfort zone by sampling a tasting flight, and pair the beer of your choice with the perfect dish. On a recent trip to Asheville, NC, the “beer city,” I was surprised by the quality of the beer, the food, and even the atmosphere at Wicked Weed Brewing.” – Allee Sangiolo, Interactive Producer 960 1280

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Best Hotel Trend – Upscale Hostels

Best Hotel Trend – Upscale Hostels

“Forget all your preconceived notions about hostels. Budget travel gets a luxurious makeover with new upscale hostels like the MOXY in Berlin, Milan, London and Frankfurt, #bunk in Istanbul, and the Lisbon Lounge Hotel. Sharing space can be stylish with these hostels’ chic rooms made for mingling and networking. Hostels are no longer just for the backpackers, but for the social and savvy budget-conscious traveler.” –- Amanda DiGiondomenico, Interactive Producer 960 1280

Richard Clifford, flickr  

Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis, Maryland

With its historic homes, wooden sailboats and midshipmen strolling the streets in their whites, Annapolis is the epitome of classic Americana. It’s the perfect place to explore military history and get a peek at its future at the United States Naval Academy Museum. Stay for the food: No trip to Annapolis is complete without enjoying some Maryland crab with Old Bay, of course. 960 1280

K. Thom  

Peak to Peak Highway, Estes Park, Colorado

Peak to Peak Highway, Estes Park, Colorado

As one of the rangers at Rocky Mountain National Park described it, “You can take many photos, but you can never completely capture the beauty of this place.” True story. A three-hour stretch of green pine trees, snowcapped mountains and log cabins makes this scenic byway (Colorado's oldest) the perfect setting for a short-but-sweet road trip.  960 1280

Visit Estes Park  

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Washington/Oregon

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Washington/Oregon

Located on the state line between Washington and Oregon, this locale is an excellent nature-filled family retreat, with waterfalls, wildflowers and sweeping views of the Columbia River. If you're willing to get wet, take a short hike through the majestic Oneonta Gorge, a lush chasm leading to a hidden waterfall. 960 1280

iStockphoto.com/Ericfoltz  

Redwood National and State Parks, California

Redwood National and State Parks, California

This enchanted forest of giant trees is located next to miles of empty beach, combining history, culture, wonder and nature in one beautiful location. As sunbeams break through the towering canopy, you'll feel as though you've been transported into a real-life fairy tale. Redwood National Park is truly an awe-inspiring escape for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. 960 1280

Visit California/Carol Highsmith  

Lafayette, Louisiana

Lafayette, Louisiana

A mix of historical and cultural influences has created the unique Cajun/French Creole food, music and language found only in this small part of the country. Enjoy a delicious (and messy) crawfish boil, dance to zydeco music and take a thrilling airboat ride! Plus, in Lafayette, you'll get all the Mardi Gras celebration without the New Orleans tourism. 960 1280

Louisiana Travel  

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Craving Zen and beauty? White Sands offers perhaps the most serene experience in the country. Walking the dunes is like wading through an ocean of diamonds surrounded by purple mountains. Make sure to arrive when the gates open to witness the morning light dancing across the desert. 960 1280

Guillaume Dutilh  

Williams, Arizona

Williams, Arizona

In the town of Williams, Ariz., expect an eclectic mix of the rich history of Route 66 and the Wild West. Williams is the perfect place for a pit stop to find a kitschy souvenir and let the kids get up close and personal with wildlife at the Bearizona drive-through wildlife park. Then, hop aboard the 100-year-old Grand Canyon Railway for a scenic, 65-mile ride to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. 960 1280

Chris Hepburn/Photolibrary/Getty Images  

St. Louis

St. Louis

St. Louis is the “Gateway to the West” for more reasons than one. Yes, its iconic Gateway Arch is a sight to behold, but the city’s friendly Midwest sensibility, steamboats, vibrant riverfront along the Mississippi, and free attractions such as the St. Louis Zoo make it truly appealing for a family getaway. Plus, it’s a (Cardinals) baseball and beer town — could you get more American than that? 960 1280

Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty Images  

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, Alabama

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, Alabama

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the park created to honor the ship’s stellar service during World War II. Tour the battleship, the aircraft collection and the USS Drum submarine, or even book an overnight adventure to get a taste of how the sailors lived. Beyond beautiful Mobile Bay, streets lined with historic homes and giant oaks give way to a vibrant downtown once dubbed “the Paris of the South.” 960 1280

Richard Cummins/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images  

Florida Keys Overseas Highway

Florida Keys Overseas Highway

Ernest Hemingway and Jimmy Buffett — two American icons, with their own devoted fan bases, who’ve called Key West home. Discover why they fell in love with the Keys by driving the 127-mile Florida Keys Overseas Highway, which includes a network of bridges that stretch from mainland Florida all the way to the southernmost point in the U.S. Make sure to pull over for the occasional conch fritter and snorkeling break, of course. 960 1280

The Monroe Tourist Development Council  

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