Want to take your teenagers on vacation?
Don’t want to listen to the complain the entire time?
Pick a destination they won’t hate!
I’ve traveled extensively with my teens and tween and I know first hand how stressful things can quickly because if they are not enjoying the trip. There are few things worse than a moody teenager on vacation that does not want to participate in any of the activities. For a while I gave up and let my oldest kid sit in the hotel room while the rest of us had fun, but I realized I needed to change the type of trips we were taking. They needed to be more exciting and active. Here are my picks for the top vacation destinations teens and tweens are sure to love.
Top 9 Destinations for Teens and Tweens in the United States
Oahu is an epic place to take tweens and teens year round. The weather is consistently good and there is much to do. Some suggested activities in Oahu that teens will likely appreciate are para-sailing, visiting North Shore and learning to surf, and paddleboarding up the Anahulu River to watch the sea turtles. Also fun for teens is hiking to the top of Diamond Head or kayaking from Lanikai Beach out to Moku Nui Island and back. If your kids enjoy hiking, take them on a more difficult hike such as to Maunawili Falls. This hike takes you deep into the jungle, where you cross a river twice and at the end you are rewarded with a waterfall, and if they are brave enough, cliff jumping.
If possible, I highly recommend staying at Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa. This resort has a teen program that your kids will actually want to go to. They get to participate in physical challenges, take animation classes, learn to play the ukulele, have parties just for them, and more. While your kids are off doing their own thing, you have the peace of mind knowing that they are safe and having fun.
Whether you visit in the summer or in the winter, tweens and teens will love Vail, Colorado. In the summer, teens can zip line and adventure through multiple ropes courses at Epic Discovery up on the mountain. Plus, there are other activities like horseback riding, white water rafting, and mountain biking. During the winter, tweens and teens can spend their time skiing and snowboarding across the massive mountain. Vail has free public transportation that’s easy to use, allowing kids to have a little independence roaming around on their own.
Universal Orlando houses many of the best roller coasters in the United States and has two extensive Harry Potter areas. Teens and tweens will love riding all the intense roller coasters. If your kids are like mine and want to ride the same roller coaster over and over, consider purchasing an Express Pass. This line pass will allow you to bypass almost every line there is in all three of the parks, which means there will be plenty of time to ride everything at least twice. Recently, Universal Orlando added a water park, Volcano Bay. There are rarely any lines and you do not have to cart around your own raft or tubes for the slides. They’ve made using the water park easy, and with teens and tweens, the easier the better!
A nice plus is the city of Orlando, because when you are done hanging out at Universal, Orlando has lots of other things to do. Kids of all ages will get a kick out of taking a Wild Florida air boat out on the swamps and seeing alligators.
Las Vegas is not somewhere most think to take teenagers, but it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the United States and there’s lots to do for all ages. Give the kids a thrill at the indoor skydiving facility or zip lining off the Rio casino at VooDoo Zip. Other fun things to do include Gameworks, the massive indoor gaming facility, and hanging out at some of the incredible hotel pools. The Wet N’ Wild in Las Vegas also has some extreme water rides. For more recommendations on planning a trip to Vegas with kids, see my article: The Ultimate Vegas Weekend for Kids.
San Antonio, Texas is packed with activities. They have Six Flags and Sea World, not to mention one of the largest water parks in the world, Schlitterbahn. The nice thing is, teenagers can basically run off and do their own thing in all of these theme parks. Even along the River Walk, kids can go off on their own. While they shop around, parents can grab a drink and also enjoy the River Walk, too. San Antonio also has an incredible zoo, but skip it if the temperature is over 100 degrees outside. Instead, lather on the sunscreen and go float down the Comel or Guadalupe River.
In San Antonio I recommend staying at Hotel Emma.
Panama City Beach
Another teen favorite in Florida is Panama City Beach. The beach has soft, powdery, white sand. It isn’t as big as many of the beach towns, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do. Go mini golfing and go-carting, spend the day at the beach, or shop around at Pier Park. Spend one day bopping around Scenic 30A, where you will find tiny beach towns like Seaside or Rosemary. Renting some bicycles is a perfect way to explore this area. Another interesting spot worth venturing out to is Sandestin’s Baytowne Wharf. Here, families can indulge in boutique shopping, zip lining, ropes courses, an arcade, and unique eateries.
Bend, Oregon is another destination that is fantastic in the summer and in the winter. During the summer, families will get a charge out of kayaking, white water rafting, and hiking. If your kids have never white water rafted before, take them down the Big Eddy. They will get a small taste of major rapids without being tossed around too terribly. Nearby, in Sunriver, there is a small water park and a little village to shop in. During the winter you can ski and snowboard on Mt. Bachelor, and there’s an outdoor ice skating rink in Sunriver.
There is a lot of to do for this age group in New York City year round. During the winter season, everyone can ice skate for free in Bryant Park and shop at all the little shops that are set up temporarily. Plus, you can witness the famous Rockette’s performing and other Christmas shows. All year long, visitors can enjoy the major landmarks and attractions here, like seeing the Statue of Liberty or visiting Ground Zero. Once kids are age 10 and up they are old enough to go through the September 11th Memorial, and old enough to appreciate, or at least sit through, a Broadway show.
Palm Springs, California
Take teens on an adventure trip in Palm Springs with activities like four wheelers or Jeep tours. Despite it being almost 100 degrees outside all three of my kids loved going on a Jeep tour of the San Andreas fault. Families can hike out at Coachella Valley Preserve or take the Palm Springs Aerial Tram up to Mt. San Jacinto State Park to hike in cooler temperatures.
I recommend staying at Omni Rancho Las Palmas near Palm Springs. They have several swimming pools and a lazy river.
This list could easily keep going with the abundance of diverse destinations found across the United States, but hopefully these 9 are enough to get you started on planning a successful trip with your teens!
Part of this article first appeared on my Gnational Gnomad post 8 Vacation Destinations Teens & Tweens Will Adore on Travelocity.