By Patricia Canole
Plane, train or will it be four wheels? Where in the world to go on your family vacation? Relax! We’ve got some amazing ideas to make this trip a treat.
Upon arrival to this beach escape, you’ll notice there are no traffic lights as far as you can see! What you will find on this tranquil island, located 30 miles south of Cape Cod, are stretches of beautiful beaches, unpretentious cottages, and a harbor filled with sailboats. Younger kids will love Children’s Beach right in Nantucket Town, while parents might prefer Jetties Beach, which has a restaurant where you can sip a drink at sunset while the youngsters play in the sand. Tweens and teens like Surfside Beach and come early afternoon they’ll head over to Broad Street for some great ice cream at The Juice Bar.
Kids of all ages will enjoy Nantucket and be kept busy with sailing, fishing, kayaking, surf lessons, theater programs at The Dreamland Theater (nantucketdreamland.org) or simply chill on the sand. A visit to the Bartlett’s Farm (barlettsfarm.com) is always a fun place to explore and, should it rain, head to The Sea Dogs Exhibit at the Egan Maritime Institute (eganmaritime.org) or teach the kids some local history at The Whaling Museum (nha.org) with its hands-on Discovery Room. For more information on Nantucket Island, visit www.islandofnantucket.info.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Wauwinet (wauwinet.com) is an elegant escape on the island’s eastern end. Active types can bike or play tennis. Wauwinet’s sister property, the White Elephant (whiteelephanthotel.com), is in a prime harbor-front location. The Quaker-style, gray-shingled hotel has many guest rooms with fireplaces. At the Boat Basin, you’ll find The Cottages where families are close to the nautical action.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
It’s a friendly, laid-back city with a distinct beach lifestyle. There’s so much to do here: boogie board, swim, surf, snorkel, kayak, scuba dive. And, best of all, the weather is ideal—it’s almost always in the 70s. A visit to San Diego means a day at the zoo with more than 4,000 animals, so plan on staying the day. Two moving walkways make getting around easy. Don’t feel like walking? Take the double-decker bus tour, which covers about 70 percent of the zoo. Looking for more adventure? Older kids will enjoy Torrey Pines Gliderport (flytorrey.com). This hang-gliding and paragliding spot atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific offers breathtaking views. Kids fly tandem with an instructor. Spend another day at Balboa Park (balboapark.org), first built for the 1915 World’s Fair. The 1,200-acre park features 15 museums and nine performing arts venues. One favorite: the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center (rhfleet.org), which appeals to kids of all ages. Be sure to bring along a picnic lunch. For more information on San Diego, visit sandiego.org.
WHERE TO STAY:
A must is the Hotel del Coronado (hoteldel.com), a grand Victorian beachfront resort. “The Del” is always alive with activity, as guests marvel at the fanciful architecture and ocean views. Opt for rooms in the Beach Village at The Del which are closer to the beach—making them an excellent option for families.
Oahu melds luxury into a laid-back ambiance. Add postcard-worthy beaches, emerald-tufted mountains, lots of adventure; it’s no wonder that Hawaii’s third-largest Isle is the most visited. Kids will enjoy the close-up dolphin encounter at Sea Life Park (sealifeparkhawaii.com), a scenic 15-mile drive from Waikiki. The park houses a seabird sanctuary, penguin habitat, turtle lagoon, sea lion feeding pool, and an excellent Hawaiian reef exhibit showcasing sharks, moray eels, and manta rays. But it’s the Dolphins that will steal your heart. Be sure to check their website for current information on the various Dolphin Encounter Programs, and bring a towel and bathing suit. However, if this program is booked, The Kahala Hotel & Resort (kahalaresort.com) also offers their own Dolphin Quest. Reservations are required. Of course, the most popular visitor attraction in Oahu—and certainly the most moving—is the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor (nps.gov). The monument memorializes the men who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. A boat shuttles you to the memorial, which lies above the sunken USS Arizona. Not too far from the Waikiki beaches soars Diamond Head—Honolulu’s volcanic mountain. Hiking up the inside slope of its crater wall is the perfect activity to do first thing in the morning and early, and the air is still relatively fresh. For a truly memorable day, rent a car and spend the day exploring Oahu’s famous North Shore. Ever hear of the Banzai Pipeline? Champion surfers from around the world gather to ride the waves reaching over 30 feet. And don’t miss the funky old town of Haleiwa where you can get delicious rainbow-flavored shave ice at legendary Matsumoto shop (matsumotoshaveice.com). For more information on Oahu, visit gohawaii.com.
WHERE TO STAY:
Hawaii’s largest resort Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort (www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com) is a must for families. Kids 5-12 can immerse themselves in activities at Camp Penguin and includes some off-site excursions to the Honolulu Zoo, and the Waikiki Aquarium. Back at the hotel, be sure to grab a prime spot to watch the entertainment and fireworks on the beach every Friday. It’s free!