As baby boomers hit retirement and Gen Xers become soccer moms, more and more families will be looking for vacation spots that work for a wider age group. With this in mind, the members and editors of travel website VirtualTourist.com compiled a list of the "Top Ten Multi-Generational Destinations." Our aim was to find locales that will provide stimulating activities and a multitude of options for children, parents, and grandparents while on vacation.
Photo credit: Baptistry Paradise Door by Vito Arcomano, Courtesy of ENIT
In addition to being the center of Renaissance culture and one of Europe's most beautiful cities, Florence provides a compact, easily-walkable destination for families of all ages. One great thing about Florence is that even if some family members have already visited the city, there are always more things to see, and many of the city's masterpieces are just as thrilling on the second or third visit. Architectural landmarks include the Duomo, topped by Brunelleschi's dome, and the Bapistry, with its exquisite gold doors. No trip to Florence is complete with a visit to the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria della Accademia, which houses Michaelangelo's David. VirtualTourist members suggest getting timed tickets for both of these museums in advance of your trip; otherwise, the line can be quite atrocious! Women of all ages will enjoy strolling the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge over the Arno River that is lined with gold jewelry shops, and VT members also noted that the Palazzo Medici and the Chapel of the Magi, though not a usual tour stop, is definitely worth the extra few Euros. For those who'd like to explore other Tuscan towns, Lucca, San Gimignano, and Siena are all picturesque and very different from the bustle of Florence.
Photo Credit: Paddle Boats at the Jefferson Memorial, Courtesy of Destination DC
Washington, DC, is an ideal place for a multi-generational gathering. The variety of culture is amazing- from monuments and museums to interesting culinary experiences. Children will be astounded by the airplanes hanging from the ceilings at the National Air and Space Museum, and adults can marvel at the details of James McNeill Whistler's opulent Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. No matter their age, all visitors to the National Gallery of Art will be amazed at both the collection of works, and the Concourse walkway, where sculptor Leo Villareal's light project, Multiverse, glitters and glows. If walking between the monuments is too much, perhaps try the paddle boats at the Tidal Basin; they provide a great view of the Jefferson Memorial. One great advantage to Washington, DC, is the amount of FREE cultural experiences: all of the Smithsonian Museums and National Monuments are free to the public. If your trip allows for a short jaunt out of town, you can check out Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens, located just under 3 hours south of the Capitol in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Photo credit: The London Eye & Big Ben by Pawel Libera, Courtesy of London on View
London has always been a great spot for family members of all ages. There are high culture activities, like the Tate Modern or the National Portrait Gallery, as well as more hands-on diversions, like the London Eye and the Royal Observatory, where you'll find the Greenwich Meridian Line. Thanks to London's fantastic tube, it's very easy to see multiple areas in one day. Visitors might start at Trafalgar Square, visiting the National Portrait Gallery, Leicester Square, and St Martin-in-the-Fields, then hop on the Tube to Westminster, where Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the House of Lords are all located. Other venues not to be missed are the British Museum, which houses the Rosetta Stone, and the Tate Modern in the Southbank area. Another great treat in London is the theatre- visit Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, also along the Southbank, or catch a show in the city's West End. Similar to Washington, DC, London is a great place to soak up culture, since entrance to most of the city's large museums is free, though tickets must be purchased for most special shows and exhibitions.
Photo Credit: Lake Louise by Paul Zizka, Courtesy of Banff Lake Louise Tourism
Skip the Alaskan cruise that all your friends are taking and go explore the true wilderness- the kind that isn't readily available anywhere nearby. Alberta, Canada is home to some of the most beautiful, pristine, and well-preserved natural settings in the world, including Banff National Park, Canada's first national park and the world's third national park. The Xplorer Club, which includes a free interactive booklet, provides interactive activities for children, including a scavenger hike and Banff National Park Bingo, so they better keep their eyes peeled for elk, bears and Woodland Caribou. The area is unique in that it provides equal amounts of activities no matter the season. In summer, there are great hiking trails, rafting excursions, biking trips, or horseback rides; the winter provides ample snow for both downhill or cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and enjoying the hot springs! Another great aspect of Banff & Lake Louise is that there are so many options, any activity can be modified: for example, the number of hiking trails provide for any difficulty level, length of hike, and time, so people of all ages can participate in activities. For those who aren't up for seriously steep hills, a simple stroll around Lake Louise or Moraine Lake provides some exercise and beautiful scenery, without fear of inclines or injury.
Photo credit: Gaudi's La Pedrera photographed by Blake C. Blanchard
While many European cities are difficult for an entire family to visit, Barcelona is ideal for a family. While small children can enjoy the amusement park on top of Mt. Tibadabo, they'll also admire the Modernisme architecture of Gaudi's Casa Batilo, La Pedrera, and Park Guell. Kids will likewise enjoy strolling Las Ramblas and watching street performers, with a short break at La Boqueria, Barcelona's famous market. The town's music culture and fantastic shopping will keep teenagers and young adults plenty occupied, as will its fun neighborhoods like El Born and El Raval. For older family members, the compact Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) is great for exploring on foot, with the Cathedral, the archway on Carrer del Bisbe, and Museu d'Historia de Barcelona all within a few blocks of each other. VirtualTourist members have remarked that the Museu d'Historia de Barcelona is a unique find- underneath the Placa del Rei, there is an archaeological site showcasing what the Roman colony of Barcino was like, giving visitors the opportunity to walk among the ruins beneath the square. A short train ride takes the family to Sitges, a beautiful beachside community, for a different view of Catalonia.
Photo credit: Marino Bellena National Park, Costa Rica, Courtesy of Costa Rica Tourism Board
While arts and architecture might excite some families, visiting the rainforest on an eco-tour might be just the ticket for families with both plant and animal lovers. Since 25% of the nation's land is protected conservation areas, Costa Rica is an ideal spot for this type of travel. For the more active in the group, there are zip lines and suspended bridges throughout the rainforest canopy, perfect for spotting animals and the country's unique fauna. There are numerous ways of exploring the terrain, from hiking and mountain biking, to more unique means of transport like ATVs or horseback. For those who are looking for a more relaxed travel experience, Costa Rica has beautiful beaches on both its Pacific and Caribbean shores, though travelers interested in surfing and waves might prefer the beaches along the Pacific.
Photo credit: Sunset Cliffs, Pacific Shoreline by Joanne DiBona, Courtesy of San Diego CVB
A delight for children and adults alike, San Diego is a great place for a multi-generational trip. Possibly the most kid-friendly destination in America, San Diego boasts a world famous zoo, SeaWorld, LegoLand, and the Zoo's Safari Park. The city's proximity to Anaheim (less than 2 hours by car) means families can easily visit Disneyland for a night or two as well. In Balboa Park, the entire family can find fun activities: kids can visit the Zoo, while some adults can peruse the San Diego Museum of Art or enjoy Balboa's amazing collection of gardens. Both children and adults will enjoy a visit to Coronado, where adults will recognize the Hotel del Coronado from movies such as Some Like It Hot, and kids will delight in the island's fantastic white sand beaches. Those interested in nightlife and a great bar scene need only venture to the Gaslamp Quarter, while couples looking for a romantic seaside stroll might want to venture up to La Jolla, one of the most beautiful beaches in California.
Photo credit: Masai Dancers, Courtesy of Tanzania Tourism Board
Photo credit: Zebras in Ngorongoro Crater, Courtesy of Tanzania Tourist Board
If you want every generation to be amazed, few journeys and experiences can impact people of any age like the visuals of an East African safari. The itineraries can vary widely, but many trips seem to begin in Nairobi, Kenya, and include seeing both the giraffes and tribes around the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Kenya's neighbor to the south, Tanzania, is another destination not to be missed, with such natural wonders as Ngorongora Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro, and Serengeti National Park. The Ngorongora Crater, a result of a collapsed volcanic eruption, is now home to lions, elephants, hyenas, gazelles, and zebras. Serengeti National Park is the yearly site of the zebra migration, an awe-inspiring sight no matter what the traveler's age.
Photo Credit: Medano Beach, Courtesy of Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau
Only a handful of beach destinations have the luxury of being able to guarantee great weather, and with around only 7 inches of rain each year, Los Cabos is among those privileged few. For the more active travelers, there is snorkeling, windsurfing, jet skis, and parasailing. A great activity that accommodates multiple levels of activity is deep sea fishing. The Sea of Cortez is home to a wide array of game fish including blue marlin, wahoo, dorado, cabrilla, and yellowtail. While reeling in the fish can be a lot of work, the less active of the group can enjoy the boat ride and a cerveza. Between December and March, there is also the opportunity to whale watch in the waters around Los Cabos.
In addition to the variety of activities, many hotels in the area have "all-inclusive" rates, meaning that food and beverages are included, making it much more affordable for families who really like to chow down while on vacation. For those who enjoy going out, there is a rambunctious nightlife and bar scene in Cabo San Lucas.
Photo courtesy of Gold Coast Tourism
A VirtualTourist.com member from New Zealand suggested Australia's Gold Coast as a great family spot, and we can't agree more! Located in the south-east corner of Queensland, Australia, the Gold Coast is almost equidistant from Byron Bay, New South Wales, and Brisbane, Queensland. With beach names like "Mermaid Beach" and "Surfers Paradise," it's understandable why the 70 km (43.5 miles) of open coastline is world-renowned. For kids who like theme parks, there is a SeaWorld, a Wet 'n' Wild, and Warner Brothers Movie World, all within 25 minutes of each other. The Gold Coast is actually Australia's most bio-diverse area, filled with subtropical rainforests; lookout tracks in Lamington National Park will provide view of both lush vegetation, but also even Byron Bay! Along the coastline, there are many learn-to-dive sites, for teenagers who want to try scuba diving but are not yet certified, as well as surf schools. For those who don't want to hike for views, there is SkyPoint Observation Deck in Surfers Paradise, providing a 360 degree view of the Gold Coast from over 230m (755 ft.) above the beaches below.
With the holiday season approaching, we hope this list has made you consider destinations that can fit everyone in your family, from kids with refined culinary palates solely for grilled cheese, to elders whose skydiving and jet skiing days might be behind them, but still love a good time.
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