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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Alaska

Alaska

“Experience the natural splendor of America’s last frontier on a cruise ship,” says Rainer Jenss. “Book the family on a smaller ship — either with Lindblad Expeditions or Alaskan Dream Cruises — so you and the kids can get a better view of the breaching whales, foraging bears and calving glaciers throughout the Inside Passage.” On land, we recommend a road trip along the Kenai Peninsula’s Seward Highway, starting in Anchorage. Make stops for fun family activities such as fishing in Homer and hiking Exit Glacier, one of several active ice flows in the state. 960 1280

Lindbald Expeditions  

Argentina

Argentina

From the beautiful capital of Buenos Aires to the sapphire glaciers of Patagonia, locals will not only be interested in meeting your family, but they will go out of their way to make your visit pleasant and memorable. “More than once, chefs emerged from the kitchen to play with our infant son, leaving my wife and me alone for a blissful meal,” says Bruce Kirkby, a family traveler who’s featured on Travel Channel’s Big Crazy Family Adventure. Argentina offers family-friendly adventures such as gaucho day trips at the Don Silvano Ranch, hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park and helicopter tours of Iguazu Falls. 960 1280

Mick Habgood/Moment/Getty Images  

Chicago

Chicago

The Windy City’s world-class museums, art scene and diverse food culture have always been big draws for families. In June, Chicago will become an even bigger family destination when it opens the 606. This trail, similar to NYC’s High Line, will grant locals and tourists access to more bike paths and walking trails connecting the Logan Square, Humboldt Park and Wick Park neighborhoods. “Downtown Chicago is great, but its neighborhoods really are the heart of the city, offering the best food and a slower pace of life more suited for quality family time,” says Keryn Means, a family travel writer and blogger for WalkingOnTravels.com. 960 1280

Adam Alexander Photography  

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Visit the Galapagos Islands for the diverse wildlife, including sea lions, giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies. Families get a rare opportunity to see animals unafraid of human proximity. Kids have unique opportunities to snap a photo of a passing whale and swim above a school of sharks. “Lodging in the past was limited to staying on a boat or in clean but homely local hotels — both great options — but the addition of the area’s first 5-star hotel (the Royal Palm on Santa Cruz) means families who would prefer a more comfortable landing can visit, too,” says Heather Greenwood Davis, a travel journalist and founder of GlobetrottingMama.com. 960 1280

Paul Kennedy/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images  

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana

Take the kids to Glacier National Park to see its namesake glaciers soon, before climate change makes them a distant memory. Home to 70 different species of mammals, this park offers a wide array of family-friendly activities, including hiking, horseback riding, fishing, boating and backpacking. “This park is filled with stunning beauty, abundant wildlife, some of the country’s most scenic hikes and opportunities for families to explore and learn,” says Nancy Schretter. “For the ultimate family adventure vacation, combine a visit to Glacier National Park with a stay at a dude ranch, such as Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge or Three Bars Ranch.” 960 1280

Donnie Sexton  

Kids Sea Camp in St. Lucia

Kids Sea Camp in St. Lucia

Book your 6-day/7-night stay at the Kids Sea Camp in St. Lucia, hosted by a top-ranked Caribbean resort, Anse Chastanet. In addition to hiking, mountain biking and kayaking, parents can take their kids snorkeling or diving. “Four-year-olds can get in the water for the Professional Association of Scuba Instructors’ (PADI) sanctioned training program,” says Rainer Jenss, president and founder of the Family Travel Association. “That’s great news for parents who thought they’d have to give up diving when the kids were born.”  960 1280

Annie Crawley/Kids Sea Camp Inc.  

Panama City, Panama

Panama City, Panama

Skip the crowds of Costa Rica and visit a new family-friendly destination, Panama. We recommend exploring Panama City’s colonial history, architecture and culture. “Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a great spot to pick up trinkets to take home, grab an ice cream and enjoy a stroll through the old Spanish architecture of Panama,” says Keryn Means. In addition to sightseeing around the city, tourists should venture outside its limits to take a boat tour on Gatun Lake, go white-water rafting on the Chagres River or enjoy the sun and waves on one of Isla Contadora’s beautiful beaches. 960 1280

Hans Joachim Hoos/iStock/Getty Images  

Peru

Peru

Peru is one of the top adventure destinations for 2015, and it's a great choice for an amazing family expedition. Go white-water rafting on the Urubamba River, explore the Amazon’s diverse wildlife and culture, ride Peruvian Paso Fino horses through villages, and mountain bike along dirt roads to see Incan archaeological sites. “Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is popular for families with teens and older children, but family-friendly tour operators such as Austin Adventures offer multiple options for reaching this iconic site,” says Nancy Schretter, a family and multigenerational travel expert. 960 1280

Peru Export and Tourism Promotion Board  

Tofino, British Columbia

Tofino, British Columbia

On Canada's west coast, Tofino has it all: endless beaches, camping, luxury lodges, surfing, kayaking and self-guided hikes in the rain forest. “Take a boat tour to go whale-watching and visit natural hot springs,” says Bruce Kirkby. “But for kids, nothing will beat the beaches.” We suggest family-friendly spots such as MacKenzie Beach, Tonquin Beach and Chesterman Beach. For a more adventurous trip, families can hike the Rainforest Trail at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Bear-watching, bird-watching, kayaking, fishing and surfing make Tofino the perfect location for a family getaway. 960 1280

Destination BC/Tom Ryan  

Tokyo

Tokyo

“Between the cartoons (kids) watch at home (think Avatar: The Last Airbender and Beyblade), the pop culture they’re exposed to (Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls) and the video games they swoon for (Nintendo and Sega have Japanese ties), Tokyo is where families will find plenty to keep them busy,” says Heather Greenwood Davis. Rent a bike to take in the Imperial Palace grounds, or take a local course in the art of origami or tai chi for a bit of culture. Then, go further. Hop on the new bullet train — which travels from Tokyo through the Hokuriku region — and watch your child’s eyes light up as you approach speeds of up to 300 mph. All aboard! The new train route is open to the public starting March 14, 2015. 960 1280

Dan Wiklund/Moment/Getty Images  

Best Exotic Beach: Tavarua, Fiji

Best Exotic Beach: Tavarua, Fiji

There are not many beaches in the world that offer as diverse and incredible experience as Fiji's tropical paradise of Tavarua. "You can dive, fish, snorkel, and surf in the crystal clear seas surrounding the vibrant coral reefs teeming with sea life," says Alison Teal, host of Alison's Adventures. "As an avid surfer, it's a dream come true to sit along the white sandy beach and then head out into a world-class surf break. The moment that sealed my love affair with this place is when I saw it from the sky: The island is shaped perfectly like a heart." 960 1280

Getty Images  

Sexiest Beach: White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

Sexiest Beach: White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

According to Beach Tomato co-founder Tom Marchant, White Bay's secluded half-mile stretch of beach has the ideal balance of undisturbed white sand and turquoise sea at one end and secluded caves where you can watch the sun go down (with mouthwatering cocktail in hand) at the other. "Head down to the Soggy Dollar bar at night to stargaze with your loved one before retiring for the night in one of the islands stunning hotels," Marchant says. "What more could you want?" 960 1280

iStock  

Best Family Beach: Clearwater Beach, FL

Best Family Beach: Clearwater Beach, FL

"The sand at Clearwater Beach is as soft as baby powder, and the gradual slope to the warm Gulf water makes it an ideal beach for babies and toddlers" according to Have Baby Will Travel founder Corrine McDermott. "Parents will love the shaded jungle gym, as well as full facilities and a snack bar with healthy options." The Gulf Coast beach has many accommodation, food, and public transportation options, appealing to many families' tastes and vacation budgets. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Best Party Beach: Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Best Party Beach: Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil's Maracanã Stadium will be center stage for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but the real party is on Ipanema Beach, where there’s always a steady stream of vendors selling beer and Cachaça. "Rio has already revamped Post 9 (the area right off Rua Vinícius de Moraes) with a new look, new changing facilities, lockers for surfboards, and showers." says managing producer Kwin Mosby. Watch Cariocas -- Rio natives -- play volleyball, foot volley, soccer or surf. Mosby adds, "After the sun goes down, eat at the popular churrascaria Porcao and go bar hopping at some of the best nightspots in the world like the exclusive Baronneti nightclub." 960 1280

Getty Images  

Best Romantic Beach: The Maldives

Best Romantic Beach: The Maldives

Startlingly turquoise seas and shimmering white sands ring the islands comprising the Maldives archipelago, a chain of 26 atolls, or rings, in the Indian Ocean. "These postcard-perfect isles are home to ultra-exclusive resorts, where long stretches of private beach unfold before sprinklings of overwater bungalows complete with private decks and outdoor showers," says travel writer Valerie Conners. "Let romance kindle while enjoying sunset strolls, snorkeling exquisite coral reefs and lounging -- cocktail in hand -- under thatched umbrellas in paradise." 960 1280

Getty Images  

Best Beach for Adventure: Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, CA

Best Beach for Adventure: Leo Carrillo State Beach, Malibu, CA

"For surfers, the 1.5-mile stretch of rocky coastline creates the perfect point break with slow rolling lines good for longboarders and an outside takeoff for shortboarders," says Cali local and our resident beach host Marianela. One of the few beaches boasting both wind and waves depending on the weather, Leo Carrillo attracts kite and windsurfers, as well as kayakers and stand up paddle boarders. An array of marine life lurk in hidden caves and tidal pools. "There are also tons of challenging trails offering wonderful ocean overlooks," Marianela adds. "I've seen many brave souls bike the trails hugging the steep cliffs and others scaling down the rocks to climb out onto the staggering bluffs." 960 1280

Getty Images  

Best Beach Bars: Rick's Cafe, Negril, Jamaica

Best Beach Bars: Rick's Cafe, Negril, Jamaica

A Jamaican mainstay since 1974, Rick's Cafe, nestled in Negril's West End Cliffs, takes this title for the second year in a row, as it's much more than your average beachfront watering hole. For the price of a refreshing Jamaican beer, you'll witness an unrivaled view of the sunset and some unforgettable entertainment. "Don't miss the locals launching themselves from 30-foot-high cliffs into the water below" says interactive producer Ben Breslerman. "And if you're feeling really adventurous, go ahead and take the dive for yourself … Just be safe!" 960 1280

Chris Ford, flickr  

Best Unusual Beach: Vik, Iceland

Best Unusual Beach: Vik, Iceland

Stunning beaches aren’t only in the tropics. "Driving through Iceland, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw the beach at Vík, a small village at the southernmost tip" says interactive producer Kathleen Rellihan. "Black volcanic sand covered with ice and snow with the legendary “troll” rock formations jetting out from the sea -- I have never seen a beach so jaw-dropping beautiful in my life.” Vík is only 110 miles from Reykjavik, so it makes for a perfect stop on a road trip along Iceland's Ring Road. You'll have plenty of other reasons to stop your car along the way — such as seeing the volcanic Lake Myvatn. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Best Beach You Haven't Heard of ... Yet: Don Pedro Island State Park, FL

Best Beach You Haven't Heard of ... Yet: Don Pedro Island State Park, FL

This off-the-beaten-path beach park located in Charlotte County on the Southwest coast of Florida is only accessible by private boat or ferry -- but once you've made the trip you're in for a treat, according to Dr. Beach. The island beach is a mile of fine, white sand adorned with a plethora of shells and black petrified shark teeth! In addition to beachcombing, Don Pedro is a great place for swimming in the clear, clean waters, and for fishing both on the island itself and the park's mainland. "I recommend that you bring your kayak or canoe for the trip across the bay and to explore the mangrove tunnels," Dr. Beach adds, "keep your eyes peeled for manatees, oystercatchers and bald eagles." 960 1280

VISIT FLORIDA  

Best Beach Boardwalks: Atlantic City Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ

Best Beach Boardwalks: Atlantic City Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ

Still standing after Superstorm Sandy, there's never been a better time to visit the Atlantic City Boardwalk, America's first boardwalk and the home of Miss America, according to senior interactive producer Sara Gilliam. "For a mix of old and new, take a ride in an iconic rolling chair while snacking on salt water taffy and people watching, indulge in some high-end shopping at Louis Vuitton or Gucci at The Pier Shops at Caesars, and splurge on a night out at one of the city's spectacular casinos or see some of the world's top entertainers perform at Boardwalk Hall," Gilliam says. Families with kids of all ages will find endless amusement at the Steel Pier across from the Trump Taj Mahal. 960 1280

iStock  

Best Overall Beach: Clearwater Beach, FL

Best Overall Beach: Clearwater Beach, FL

We asked you to weigh in on our expert picks and determine the Best Overall Beach. Travel Channel fans voted and chose Clearwater Beach, FL, as their fan favorite, lauding its "laid-back family atmosphere," blue waters and "snow white sand." 960 1280

iStock  

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

iStock  

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

iStock  

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

iStock  

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

iStock  

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  

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