Want to take your teenagers on vacation?
But you do not want to listen to them cry and moan the entire time?
Save yourself from the endless complaining by selecting a destination, they won’t rebel against!
At this point, I’ve traveled extensively with my teens and tween and unfortunately, I know first hand how stressful things can suddenly become because they are not having a good time on 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 eventually I realized I needed to change the type of trips we were taking. They needed to be way more exciting and physically active, especially if they’ve been stuck in the car on a road trip. With these two things in mind, here are my picks for the top US vacation for teens and tweens.
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, especially if your family enjoys water sports. Some suggested activities in Oahu that teens will likely appreciate are:
- Visiting North Shore and learning to surf
- Paddle-boarding up the Anahulu River to watch the sea turtles
- Hiking to the top of Diamond Head
- Kayaking from Lanikai Beach out to Moku Nui Island and back.
- Hike 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.
See our Oahu Travel Guide to help you plan your entire trip!
Kauai, Hawaii is also fantastic if you want something less main stream.
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. Oh, and there’s always Disney World.
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, rocking climbing out at the Red Rocks, 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: Five Days in Las Vegas with Kids or our extensive Las Vegas Travel Guide.
San Antonio, Texas is jammed packed with activities. They have two major theme parks, Six Flags and Sea World, not to mention one of the most extensive 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 explore all on their own. While they shop around, parents can take a break over a drink and enjoy the River Walk in a slightly more grownup way.
San Antonio also has a fantastic zoo, but you will want to skip it if the temperature is over 100 degrees outside. Instead, lather on the sunscreen and go float down the Comel river or Guadalupe River.
In San Antonio, I recommend staying at Hotel Emma.
Plan your entire trip with our San Antonio Travel Guide.
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.
Use our Panama City Beach travel guide to plan your entire vacation.
Bend, Oregon is another destination that is fantastic in the summer and in the winter. Year round they have some of the best off-roading in the state!
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.
Read our Bend, Oregon Travel Guide to help plan your family vacation.
There is a lot of things 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 acclaimed Rockette’s performing and many 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.
Use our Palm Springs Travel Guide to help you plan your family vacation.
This list could undoubtedly 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!
For more ideas on places in the United States on vacation see our 22 picks for a spring break trip, Best Lake Vacations in the United States or our post on 8 Insanely Affordable Summer Vacations in the United States.