Kicking it palapa-style at Dreams Nueva Vallarta.
Dreams Resort, Puerto Vallarta Mexico
For a great all-inclusive resort vacation, I highly recommend Dreams just north of Puerto Vallarta. We stayed for a week in this lovely paradise with enormous crystal clear pools, beach palapas, entertainment, all manner of activities and fantastic restaurant. To lounge and read with feet in the sand and a drink in a coconut shell while the kids splashed around or painted ceramics was, in a word, dreamy.
Train Town, Sonoma, California
Did you know that there’s an amusement park for the shorties in Sonoma! And it’s dirt-cheap! This adorable destination is located a mile from Sonoma Plaza. Zip though tunnels and over bridges on the quarter-scale railroad on your way to Lakeview, the miniature town and petting zoo.
There is also a Ferris wheel, scrambler, roller coaster, and carousel to further delight the young’uns.
Camping in Big Sur, California
I’m not much into camping, but it gets us outdoors, it’s affordable, and kids love it. Fernwood on the Big Sur River offers different levels of lodging —cabins, tent cabins, campground, and a motel. We scored a nice site next on the riverbank to pitch our tent. The kids went tubing, climbed trees and simply explored. Upstairs the hill at the lodge are shops (with lattes in the morning), a restaurant, and a tavern. A nice getaway for nature lovers who also love city amenities.
Legoland, Carlsbad, California
These Danish plastic bricks have taken the world and my son’s bedroom by storm. And Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, Calif is up there next to Disneyland as the ultimate children’s fantasyland. It’s home to to more than 60 rides, shows and attractions and they debuted their first U.S. hotel there last spring. Continue the fun straight into your hotel room!
A salute from Legoland, Carlsbad, California
Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Acres (71,028 to be precise) of pristine coastline are located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County. The water is best explored with a wetsuit but since kids are generally impervious to cold, why bother? Pack the sand toys and have a castle contest! The hikes range from easy/moderate to difficult and the views are spectacular. Plan ahead and reserve the Windsong Cottage yurt for an unforgettable family getaway.
Ocean Beach dunes/Java Beach Café, San Francisco, California
Being a city dweller close to the ocean, taking the kids to the beach is one of my favorite go-to adventures. Our usual routine is grilled cheese and soup at Java Beach Café then watching the sun set on Ocean Beach. There is a treacherous undertow on this beach (with scary riptide warnings), so the kids mostly stick to rolling down and hiding in the massive dunes.
Kids’ Suite at the Hotel Union Square, San Francisco, California
I love this room! If you’re visiting San Francisco with little ones, this is the place to stay. It’s spacious, cheerful l and equipped with all manner of well-curated kids’ toys and books. From baby toys to a Wii, there is ample in-room entertainment. Then, just step out the door into bustling Union Square for great shopping and restaurants.
The kids’ suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco.
New York City
Last summer, I hit the road with the kids for a (very, very hot) summer on the East Coast. My daughter was the right age (eight) for NYC and fell in love with it. My little guy not so much — I ended up leaving him with my mom while Parker and I explored the city on foot, subway, taxi cab, and the Staten Island ferry. We had a blast. There so much to do there with a curious kids — Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building. Even driving through Times Square at night is a thrill.
Fairyland, Oakland, Califoria
Oakland’s adorable Fairyland is where Walt Disney got his inspiration for Disneyland. It is sweet and kind of run down but in a charming way. It definitely skews toward the really young crowd. Take the train to get the lay of the land then visit one of the shows. There are lots of rides, play areas, and a decent café on the premises. Oh, and good luck getting them out of the giftshop!
I come here frequently to visit family and one of our rituals is to take the kids to the Boston Public Gardens to ride the swan boats. After, we go for chowder at Union Oyster House that claims to be the oldest restaurant on the East Coast. It certainly looks like it could be with its low ceilings and narrow passageways. You can gaze out the window and picture Paul Revere riding down the cobblestone streets out front.
Ice Skating at Embarcadero or Union Square, San Francisco, California
This is a fun way to while away the afternoon during winter break when they kids have been cooped up. The Union Square rink is especially festive during the holidays with the humungous Christmas tree nearby. The Embarcadero is less crowded though, and you are right across for the Ferry Building Marketplace for lunch.
Chinatown, San Francisco, California
This is one for slightly older kids who like to explore on foot. It’s always pretty crowded but there are so many interesting and outrageous sites. A bunch of live frogs in a bucked anyone? A must stop is at the Fortune Cookie factory, a teeny hole-in-the wall on a narrow pedestrian alleyway where you can watch the old ladies make the cookies and taste a sample. Don’t forget to have lunch at one of the many dim sum counters.
While I might avoid it in the dead of winter (like right now where it’s 10 degrees), Maine has a beautiful austerity. Summer in charming Oqunquit or Kennebunkport is where it’s at. The kids loved the hot summer weather and enjoyed Portland, a laid back Northern town with gorgeous brick buildings, cool people and great seafood restaurants. Maine in fall is lovely also with a spectrum of colorful leaves on the trees.
Ogunquit Harbor, Maine
San Francisco Insider Tip:
Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, Ca
While it might seem too touristy for us adult folk, kids love Fishermans Wharf. For some tips that we all can enjoy, I suggest a trip to the Musee Mechanique, a collection of 200 antique penny arcade machines. There is also a restored WWII submarine, the Hyde Street Pier with its collection of vintage sea vessels, and the cool Aquarium of the Bay nearby.
Post contributed by Lisa Dion of Friscomama.com