International Day of Families: Five unique American destinations for a fun-filled family vacation

From Chicago to Portland, check out some of the recommendations that are must-adds for your next family holiday to the USA

author_img P Parthiban Published :  15th May 2021 04:39 PM   |   Published :   |  15th May 2021 04:39 PM
Chicago's Cloud Gate (top left), Portland's Latourell Falls (top right), and Walt Disney World Resort at Orlando (bottom)

Chicago's Cloud Gate (top left), Portland's Latourell Falls (top right), and Walt Disney World Resort at Orlando (bottom)

The United States offers plenty of attractions and experiences for family vacations, from a day in the outdoors, to museums, among the wild in the zoos, or theme-parks.

This International Day of Families, check out some of the recommendations that are must-adds for your next family holiday to the USA:

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago's ‘Cloud Gate’ sculpture
Chicago's ‘Cloud Gate’ sculpture

From Chicago icons like Millennium Park’s sculptures, fountains, gardens, event spaces to the giant silver ‘Cloud Gate’ sculpture shaped like a bean by revered British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor, you can consume all of what the city has to offer. You can also head to The Ledge, a glass platform on the Skydeck at Willis Tower, or the 360 Chicago Observation Deck on North Michigan Avenue, where the TILT experience leans you out 300 meters above Michigan Avenue.

Then, there’s a beautiful cityscape where you can take a stroll along the Chicago Riverwalk, and enjoy a waterside meal, sip a drink or set out on an architecture cruise on the Chicago River. 

The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, features various exhibits, including the Evolving Planet and Ancient Americas exhibits, to learn all about the world of natural history. It houses the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever found. The 67-million-year-old SUE would have weighed around nine tons. The museum also features mummies, totem poles and meteors. It is perfect for kids of all ages, but those under six will especially like the interactive fun in the PlayLab.

You can also take the kids to one of the three iconic and family attractions - Navy Pier, Wrigley Field and Lincoln Park Zoo. The Navy Pier is one of Chicago’s most popular attractions. The 150-foot Centennial Wheel towers above Pier Park theme park for an uplifting ride. Tour of Wrigley Field can be a memorable sports experience. If your kids are into animals, then do visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, where they have penguins and polar bears, and farm animals and apes.

Huntsville, Alabama

Adventure sports at Huntsville
Adventure sports at Huntsville

Huntsville is a high-tech city with a historical legacy and international appeal. Its location in the expansive Tennessee Valley makes day-tripping for mountain adventures easy. Venture up Round Top Mountain (also known as Monte Sano Mountain), home to Monte Sano State Park, to enjoy the tranquil Japanese garden, or to hike trails blanketed with azaleas in the spring and colourful leaves in the fall.

Kids aged seven and up will love a visit to the Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where they can explore space vehicles from capsules to rockets. Sign up for a family camp and train for a mission to the International Space Station or to be a fighter pilot.

An art lover? We got you covered as the city beckons visitors to admire a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits, including the unique Sellars Collection of Art by American Women at the Huntsville Museum of Art. The city also hosts the Panoply Arts Festival, an annual weekend celebrating the arts, music and more downtown. 

Another place for the kids to have just as much fun is the Huntsville Botanical Garden that highlights the marvels of nature instead of mankind. It features the Children’s Garden full of favourite characters, cool water play in the summertime, and the world-renown Purdy Butterfly House.

Also read: Here are a few top choices for travel in the United States

Cedar City and Brian Head, Utah

Red spires at Cedar City and Brian Head
Red rock spires at Cedar City and Brian Head

Cedar City is a surprising sanctuary of cool mountain air and world-class cultural attractions in astonishing proximity to the extensive outdoor adventure of Southwest Utah’s famous Mighty Five National Parks - Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Park. Cedar City is also known as the ‘Festival City U.S.A.’ because the plethora of events taking place year-round include free music festivals, downtown parades and touring bike races.

Cedar Breaks National Monument has the most distinctive and beautiful natural landscapes. Take a moment to scan the horizon as limestone arches, towers and hundreds of red rock spires come into view. You could explore by taking a hike too.

Hike at the Cedar City and Brian Head

Brian Head is an Ultimate Resort town in America, with an impressive base elevation of nearly 3,000 meters and a peak elevation of 3,400 meters. This area is best known for its resort and its world-class skiing in the winter. After the snow melts, there is still plenty happening for outdoors enthusiasts. Brian Head Resort has hiking, archery, a zip line, biking, tubing… the list goes on, so you won’t be at a loss for things to do year-round. It’s also well-known as an affordable outing for families, making it a gem among Utah’s fabulous landmarks and attractions.

Portland, Oregon

Portland's Latourell Falls
Portland's Latourell Falls

Home to both a sprawling urban wilderness and the world’s smallest dedicated park, Portland offers visitors a breath of fresh air.

The Washington Park is the home to the impressive Portland Japanese Garden, where kids and grown-ups alike can explore the winding paths, water features and zen gardens.

Oregon Zoo, founded in 1888, is home to 2,000 animals, with more than 230 species. The star at this conservation zoo is its Elephant Lands habitat, home to a growing elephant family. The habitat includes diverse landscape areas and play structures, as well as opportunities for visitors to see these magnificent creatures up close.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is another must visit for the kids where they can check out the USS Blueback, a retired US Navy submarine and a planetarium. With the Outdoor Adventure at Portland Children’s Museum is a space where children can explore sculptures, landscaping, creeks and trails. At the campsite, kids can build their own forts out of natural materials like logs and rocks. The meadow gives youngsters the opportunity to get up close and personal with a variety of plants. 

The clear waters of the Sandy River at Oxbow Regional Park is like an oasis for swimmers, kayakers, rafters and floaters just 32 kilometres from downtown on a hot summer day. If you don’t have tents for camping, the family-friendly yurts and deluxe cabins provide cozy overnight options.

Latourell Falls are one of the prettiest waterfalls one can visit close to the city that sit on a looping trail less than 4 km in length. A bit farther, the Punchbowl Falls hike features stunning namesake falls and a popular swimming hole. The Willamette River is one of only a handful of U.S. rivers to offer salmon and steelhead fishing in a large metropolitan area.

Another awe-inspiring attraction in Portland is the majestic, snow-capped Mt. Hood that offers year-round family fun. In the winter, three ski resorts provide skiers and boarders of all ages and abilities a snowy playground of varied terrain. 

Orlando, Florida

Walt Disney at Orlando
Walt Disney World Resort at Orlando

There’s no place quite like Orlando, which is the ultimate theme park destination and has much more to offer for all age groups. 

Starting with the big one: Walt Disney World Resort, is a massive theme park complex that includes four individual parks - Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, plus two water parks, dozens of restaurants and uniquely-themed accommodations. 

The other world-famous attractions include LEGOLAND, SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando Resort, which is home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here, the newest, most spectacular and tech-forward water park, Volcano Bay delivers all the right feels, from thrilling to the most serene. Split into four distinct areas anchored by the towering, 200-foot-tall Krakatau volcano, the park is a stunning testament to the Waturi philosophy: “Water Is Life and Life Is Joy.”

All the parks have enhanced safety and sanitisation measures to help protect you and your family, including face-masks and social-distancing guidelines, contactless payment options, and more.

The Wheel at ICON Park Orlando is a 400 ft (122 m), giant observation wheel in eastern USA where you can take a 23-minute ride inside one of the 30 air-conditioned capsules. This is the best view you’ll find of Orlando; it’s especially lovely at night, when 64,000 LEDs light up the wheel.

There are lots of small-town treasures if you take a road trip between Orlando and Tampa. Love to know about dinosaurs? You can also take a side trip on the way to Tampa to the Dinosaur World to encounter life-sized dinosaur replicas amid lush, tropical foliage. And before you arrive in Tampa, stop at a U-pick farm in Plant City – the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World – to pluck juicy red berries right off the bush.

For outdoorsy travelers, Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka is a great place for hiking, biking, camping, and swimming or snorkeling in the refreshing, 72-degree springs.