19 family vacation ideas your teenager will love

19 family vacation ideas your teenager will love

Traveling with teens can be tricky. They’re too young for adult fun and too old for the plethora of activities geared toward the easy-to-please 12-and-under crowd. Fortunately, just like there are places to take the kids before they’re grown, there are destinations ideal for families with teens.

Many are bucket list places, but why not splurge for the occasion? It may be the last family vacation before your kid(s) fly the coop — forever. From Reno Tahoe to Northern Thailand, here are 19 teen-friendly places to visit as a family.

Best vacation spots for families with teens

Denver, Colorado

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: The Mile High City is a must for families with teens who want to play in the mountains but have big city amenities.

Do this: Social media mavens can start the day at the Denver Selfie Museum where the backdrops are just as Insta-worthy as the surrounding Rockies. Or capture those tricks for TikTok at the 60,000-square-foot Denver Skate Park. Aspiring artists will want to check out the myriad collections at the Denver Art Museum (18 and under are free). In the winter, adrenaline junkies can’t skip a trip to Ruby Hill Rail Yard, an urban terrain park and snowboarder’s paradise.

Stay here: The Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver has a graduation package including a $14 credit to cover the first month of your new college student’s Netflix. It also has a “Touchdown and Tailgate” package for NFL fans and is within walking distance of most of Denver’s downtown sites.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver

More info: Denver.org

Porto, Portugal

Best for ages: 16+

Here’s why: Practically crime-free, extremely cheap and small enough to be walkable, Porto is the perfect European city to give teens a taste of independence. Located where the Douro River meets the Atlantic, its proximity to the beach and the Douro Valley ensures there is plenty to do.

Do this: Visit the world-famous “Harry Potter library” — Livraria Lello. Make a professional Instagram reel with the drone pilots and video souvenir experts at Birdie. Teens not afraid of heights should harness up for a bridge climb offering a bird’s-eye view of the city. Teens not afraid of sharks can learn to surf with Onda Pura. Take a scenic boat or train ride to the Douro Valley, the world’s oldest demarcated wine region where teens (16+) are legally allowed to taste wine. More importantly, learn how it’s made.

Stay here: The breakfast buffet at The Lodge Wine & Business Hotel will satisfy any growing teen, and its picturesque outdoor pool is a rarity in this city founded in 1123.

The Lodge Wine & Business Hotel

More info: VisitPortugal.com

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: Jackson Hole is a year-round vacation destination and convenient home base for exploring two of the country’s most popular national parks. With its small-town setting (population 10,500) where everything is within walking distance, teens can easily explore on their own.

Do this: Ski or snowboard together at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one of the most iconic ski resorts in the world. Rent bikes and ride 56 miles of paved paths or 115 miles of mountain bike trails — most with breathtaking valley views. Since a family who rafts together stays together, battle the rapids on the Snake River or go for a scenic floating safari in search of moose, elk, bears and more. Of course no trip to Jackson is complete without venturing into Yellowstone National Park via the equally stunning Grand Teton National Park.

Stay here: Located at the base of Snow King Mountain Resort, Snow King Resort is Jackson Hole’s best option for families who want to open their front door to unlimited fun. Ski, snowboard, tube or — if you visit outside of winter — ride the mountain coaster and alpine slide. There’s also a massive mountain-top ziplining course, mini golf and bungee trampoline.

Snow King Resort

More info: VisitJacksonHole.com

San Diego, California

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: Whether or not you agree with its nickname “America’s Finest City,” you’ll agree San Diego has beautiful year-round weather and so much to keep your teen(s) happy they’ll ask about going to college there.

Do this: Beach hop your way around the city’s nearly three area beaches. Or cave hop via kayak or SUP. Take a self-guided street art tour, stopping to pose in front of massive murals — often illustrating important messages — for pics for the ‘gram. Ride the Giant Dipper roller coaster at the oceanfront Belmont Park or watch an interactive film in its 7-D high tech theater. Other must-consider attractions include the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum and the Comic-Con Museum scheduled to open in late 2021.

Stay here: The newly opened Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay welcomes RVs in addition to its fully-furnished tiny home rentals complete with fire pits and front porches. Between the on-site arcade, food trucks, poolside movie screen, basketball courts and indoor/outdoor fitness center, teens can’t complain of boredom.

Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay

More info: SanDiego.org

The Maldives

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: You don’t have to be on your honeymoon to visit the Maldives. With its 1,190 islands, it’s a tropical paradise with lots for teens to do. (An obvious bucket list destination, it’s also easy to justify taking when it could be your last vacation as a family.)

Do this: Try new watersports like wakeboarding, kitesurfing, jetblades and even hydrofoils which could be deemed more of an air sport. Become PADI-certified (ages 10+) and take an underwater family holiday card you’ll never forget. Since every other kid wants to be a marine biologist when they grow up, why not learn about conservation by transplanting coral, planting a tree or helping rehabilitate endangered sea turtles? Treat them to a treatment at Spa by ESPA at Joali Maldives where there’s a special menu for teens.

Stay here: Amilla has a teen program including DJ lessons, guitar lessons, mocktail making classes and even nighttime glow rider bicycle tours. One & Only Reethi Rah also has a teen program, One Tribe, with dedicated teens-only chill space. And for teens who love the adrenaline rush? Stay at the Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru, which boasts a Mastercraft X55 boat that makes its own surf and comes complete with sound system.

Amilla Maldives Resort & Residences

More info: VisitMaldives.com

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: Wisconsin Dells is the waterpark capital of the world. Families can stay for two weeks and still never ride all the slides.

Do this: Visit the bottom of the ocean (or outer space) thanks to the underwater virtual reality experience at Kalahari, one of the country’s largest indoor waterparks. Race each other on the Raja king-cobra-themed side-by-side slides at Noah’s Ark. (It’s six stories high!) Visit Mt. Olympus to take on the nine-foot-tall waves at Poseidon’s Rage, one of the world’s largest wave pools or float on The River Troy, the world’s fastest manmade river. Tired of water-based activities? Attempt the Wizard Quest, the first fantasy team-building (or family-bonding) game in the country or unleash your inner Viking at Asgard Axe Throwing.

Stay here: While several area resorts boast their own waterparks, the top-rated property on TripAdvisor is the family-owned and operated Black Hawk Motel & Suites. All guests get free admission to Tom Foolery’s Indoor Adventure Park and Timbavati Wildlife Park.

Black Hawk Motel & Suites

More info: WisDells.com

Butler County, Ohio

Best for ages: 13-16

Here’s why: This best of the Midwest destination proves that even inner-city teens can have fun in flyover states. Butler County also makes for a great halfway point for families coming from different coasts.

Do this: Teens who identify as foodies will love the aptly named Donut Trail where they can get their donut passport (pick it up at the CVB) stamped at each of the funky boutique donut shops along the trail. There is exactly a baker’s dozen. Teens who collect all 13 stamps can collect a free T-shirt. Aspiring equestrians can get their horse fix at any of the area’s stables where they can rent horses or join a group ride. And teens who want to learn or practice wakeboarding will have a blast at Wake Nation. With its unique cable-tow system, no boat is required and beginners can learn at slower speeds. And for the ultimate rush, drive 30 minutes south to Cincinnati for indoor skydiving at IFly.

Stay here: Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center is just a few minutes by car from Miami University — one of the oldest public universities in the U.S. Guests can enjoy archery, community bonfires, court sports and access to Acton Lake and Heuston Woods State Park.

Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center

More info: GettoTheBC.com

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: There are several reasons Myrtle Beach welcomes nearly 20 million visitors annually. For starters, there are more than 50 beaches to choose from, several world-class golf courses to conquer and one of the country’s biggest boardwalks selling limitless fun.

Do this: Teens anxious to drive can get behind the wheel of their own go-kart and race on six different tracks at the Broadway Grand Prix. Teens aspiring to join the PGA Tour will want to play at one of the area’s 90 golf courses which host junior opens throughout the year. (There’s also a Top Golf if you can’t get a tee time.) Meanwhile, young fans of “The Walking Dead” won’t want to miss the AMC hit show-themed escape room, and fans of “The Simpsons,” The Simpsons in 4D. Teens wanting to hang out with other teens can easily do so on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade, home to one of the country’s tallest Ferris wheels. Of course, there are also plenty of beach activities including surfing, wakeboarding and horseback riding to choose from.

Stay here: South Bay Inn & Suites, Myrtle Beach’s newest new construction hotel, has an on-site waterpark with different areas for young and old kids. Meanwhile, the beachfront Grande Cayman Resort has 10 pools and four on-site restaurants.

South Bay Inn & Suites

More info: VisitMyrtleBeach.com

Tenerife, Spain

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: A trip to Tenerife is a rite of passage for most European teens. American teens will love the Island of Eternal Spring and its lively beaches, ethereal national parks and top-rated zoo and waterpark for the same reasons.

Do this: Ride the cable car up to the top of Teide, the world’s third-tallest volcano and crown jewel of Europe’s most visited national park. Snorkel while on a SUP or kayak tour in the shade of the cliffs at Los Gigantes, home to dolphins and sea life galore. Ride the zero gravity slide at Siam Park, the #1 rated waterpark in the world according to TripAdvisor, or head out on a quad safari en route to Spain’s highest village. Of course, there are also miles of beaches to explore (made of white sand imported from the Sahara or local, black volcanic sand).

Stay here: Families with older teens will enjoy the adults-only (16+) atmosphere at Iberostar Selecion Sabila. Recently renovated, it’s where luxurious, minimalist design meets beachfront all-inclusive resort. Families with younger teens with small siblings can stay up the road at Iberostar Selecion Anthelia which boasts six pools and a kids’ camp.

Iberostar Selecion Sabila

More info: WebTenerife.com

Louisville, Kentucky

Best for ages: 13-6

Here’s why: Underground ziplines, a baseball museum, the Muhammad Ali Center and a bridge allowing travelers to be in two states at the same time are just a few of the memorable experiences families with teens will enjoy in Louisville, A.K.A., Derby City.

Do this: Tech-savvy teens will want to visit Ovrdrive: a state-of-the-art center with racing simulators and more than 100 virtual reality games. (Those ages 12 and up can also throw axes.) Head to the Louisville Slugger Museum and take home a personalized bat as a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Cool off in the Louisville Mega Cavern boasting nearly 20 miles of underground tunnels and the world’s only ziplines that are entirely underground. Finally, check out Churchill Downs where teens can learn about the art and sport of horse racing by either attending a race or visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum (whose interactive exhibits include a horse race simulator).

Stay here: All rooms at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Louisville Downtown come with separate TV rooms so teens can stay up late watching their favorite shows. The property also offers free breakfast, free Wi-Fi and is only a block from Museum Row.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Louisville Downtown

More info: GoToLouisville.com

Space Coast, Florida

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: Just an hour from Orlando, Florida’s Space Coast is an inspirational beach destination where teens can learn about everything from space exploration to manatee conservation.

Do this: Get a trip to Disney World, Universal Studios and Epcot out of the way. Then head southeast to the childhood home of Kelly Slater (it’s the East Coast Surf Capital) for some beach time. Explore further inland on a kayak or SUP tour winding through tunnels of mangrove trees. Sea turtle sightings aren’t guaranteed, but the Space Coast does have a huge concentration of them. Teens obsessed with LED lights will be in awe in the bioluminescent lagoon. The Space Coast is one of very few places in the world to see this phenomenon where the tiniest of marine creatures emit a neon blue-light for protection. Teens who want to work for NASA (or those who simply follow Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and/or Richard Branson) will never want to leave the Kennedy Space Center with its rocket garden, 3D space films, shuttle launch experience and journey to Mars. For a really memorable experience, book an admission add-on. They include astronaut training courses and even dinner with an astronaut.

Stay here: The family-owned and operated Surf Studio Beach Resort in Cocoa Beach has clean, low-cost accommodations that include kitchens (because teens are always hungry) and a private bedroom for the parents. Cape Winds Resort Rentals in Cape Canaveral also offers private beach access in addition to tennis courts, a basketball court and a pool.

Surf Studio Beach Resort

More info: VisitSpaceCoast.com

Reno Tahoe, Nevada

Best for ages: 15-18

Here’s why: Reno Tahoe is a unique destination where mountains meet desert. It’s where annual events include the Zombie Crawl, the Great Reno Balloon Race, the National Championship Air Races and — last but certainly not least — Burning Man.

Do this: Venture downtown to take iconic Instagram shots of the murals (there are more than 100) and to pose for pics with the Burning Man sculptures. Embrace your inner Flintstone and bowl at the National Bowling Stadium, also called the “Taj Mahal of Tenpins.” Another good rainy day activity for teens is a trip to Need2Speed — an indoor go-kart racing track open seven days a week. It also boasts blacklight mini golf and a VR game. Beautiful weather? Drive to nearby Lake Tahoe to kayak in the crystal clear water or hit the slopes at one of the area’s renowned resorts. Teens can also explore hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails year-round.

Stay here: The coolest hotel in town (and perhaps Nevada) is Whitney Peak Hotel. It has a bouldering park on-site and is home to one of the world’s tallest climbing walls where teens can climb up for a bird’s-eye view of the Reno Arch.

Whitney Peak Hotel

More info: VisitRenoTahoe.com

Costa Rica

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: Teens are notoriously moody; Costa Rica is often called the happiest country on earth. Show them rainforests, volcanos, white sand beaches and what the “pura vida” life is all about.

Do this: Soar through the canopy in Monteverde, the high altitude cloudforest where ziplining for tourism was pioneered and the rest of the world followed suit. Sky Adventures Monteverde Park also has an aerial tram and a hanging bridges tour where you can see the levels of the cloudforest and its biodiversity up close. Teens who want to say they’ve climbed a volcano can do so at Cerro Chato, next to Arenal, the country’s most famous volcano and one of the most active in the world. Of course, no trip to Costa Rica is complete without a visit to its beaches — stretching for miles along both the Caribbean and Pacific. Learn to surf in the funky town of Tamarindo at Iguana Surf where the instructors all speak English and no one goes home without having caught their own wave. Hike in the tropical waterfront paradise that is Manuel Antonio National Park — Costa Rica’s answer to Yellowstone. (You can laugh at them, but don’t feed the monkeys.)

Stay here: If your teens have Zoom classes to attend (or just want to watch their favorite shows), they’ll love the turbo speed Wi-Fi at Tierra Magnifica, a luxury boutique property in the surf community of Nosara. (You’ll love the panoramic views and sense of safety.) If an all-inclusive is more your speed, teens will appreciate dining options and beachfront activities at The Westin Reserva Conchal.

Tierra Magnifica

More info: VisitCostaRica.com

Whistler, Canada

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: Billing itself as an international mountain sports mecca, Whistler is another family vacation bucket list destination. It gives teens unlimited opportunities for adventure and — just as important — a greater appreciation for nature.

Do this: Drop into a teen group ski or snowboard lesson at Whistler Blackcomb, a venue for the 2010 Olympic Games. Teens not wanting to try snow sports can hang out at the teen youth center: three rooms of video games, movies, skateboarding and special events. In the summer, junior golfers (16 and under) golf free with an adult on Whistler’s award-winning golf courses. Older teens qualify for a highly discounted green fee. Teens can also sign up for Summer Gravity mountain biking camps where they’ll learn from the pros and meet other teens obsessed with MTB.

Stay here: The best option for families wanting to stay at base camp is Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Guests ages 16+ are allowed on daily excursions sans parents (just signed permission slips). They include paddle boarding, hiking, biking and frisbee golf.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler

More info: Whistler.com

Los Cabos, Mexico

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: With several daily nonstop flights from major cities in the U.S., it’s easy and affordable to reach this beautiful international beach destination. Los Cabos is a drier alternative to Cancun, plus you don’t have to worry about hurricane season.

Do this: Between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific, take advantage of the year-round swells and learn or practice surfing in Los Cabos. There are approximately 1,000 miles of coastline, so it’s never too crowded. Teens keener on marine life can snorkel and dive alongside the likes of friendly sea lions and ominous-looking, yet harmless, hammerhead sharks. Other animal encounters include camel safaris in the outback. Despite its proximity to water, Los Cabos’ breathtaking landscape includes a desert playground. For a high-speed tour, opt for an off-road ATV or UTV excursion with Cactus Tours. Or for the best value, buy the Park Pass at Wild Canyon Adventures. For $160, teens have access to unlimited ziplining, horseback riding, bikes, a hanging bridge and more. The price even includes an ATV or UTV tour as well as a bungee jump or giant swing ride.

Stay here: Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection has a teen club with a recording studio. Grand Velas Los Cabos’ teen club has lots of games (including an Xbox Kinect), a bar serving non-alcoholic drinks and even an in-house DJ spinning the latest beats every night until midnight.

Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection

More info: VisitLosCabos.travel

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: Chiang Mai is a safe, affordable, entry-level destination in Asia where families can learn about one of the most welcoming cultures on earth. It’s also where you can feed growing teenage boys on $10 a day.

Do this: Volunteer at one of Chiang Mai’s many elephant sanctuaries. While most weekly programs are only for ages 18+, Elephant Nature Park has one-night programs open to families with kids of all ages. Spend the day watching the elephants bathe in the river before helping to feed and walk them. Spend the night in a traditional bamboo hut. In the ancient walled city, visit Chiang Mai’s 117 Buddhist temples, and even sign up for a monk chat at a wat to learn more about the religion and how most Thai boys spend their early teenage years becoming monks. Sign up for a Muay Thai camp or a cooking class including a shopping trip to some of Southeast Asia’s most colorful markets. Schedule your trip for November if you think your teen will love the world-famous Yi Peng Lantern Festival or in April for Songkran, the world’s largest water fight (where weapons include everything from buckets to squirt guns and hoses) held in conjunction with the Thai New Year.

Stay here: With its rooftop pool, a rarity in Chiang Mai, it’s hard to beat Akyra Manor. Teens will appreciate its location in the hip, artist-influenced neighborhood of Nimman. Within its spacious suites walking distance of the lively night market, Anantara Chiang Mai Resort is also teen-approved.

Akyra Manor

More info: TourismThailand.org

Disney Cruise Line

Best for ages: 13-17

Here’s why: Cruises are popular with families with teens for a reason; they’re less stress for you and teens love the independence. Thanks to owning everything from the “Frozen” franchise to “Star Wars” and “Marvel,” Disney can keep all kids — from toddlers to teens — entertained.

Do this: Book any Disney Cruise Line voyage on Disney Dream or Disney Fantasy. Both ships promise “ultra-cool plush pads” designed exclusively for teens. The official teen club, Vibe, is a 9,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor oasis that only teens, using their teen card, have access to. Vibe (ages 14-17) has a fountain bar, a 103-inch LCD TV, plenty of video game pods and two pools. Edge, the lounge for tweens (ages 11-14) has similar amenities as well as a lighted dance floor, a 10-foot-tall cinema, a photo booth and individual computer stations. Make sure to book a treatment at Chill Spa where guests ages 13-17 can be pampered with packages including a Fabulously Fruity Facial, Ice Cream Manicure and Pedicure and a Tantastic Body Bronzer.

Disney Cruise

More info: DisneyCruise.Disney.Go.Com

African Safari

Best for ages: 15-18

Here’s why: Simply put, teens deserve to be treated to the ultimate dream family vacation before they fly the coop.

Do this: Book an all-inclusive package with flights (dealing with logistics in Africa can be tricky) offered by a tour operator like The Luxury Safari Company. For families with teens, they recommend visiting Sosian Lodge in the north of Kenya. In seven nights, families can strengthen bonds and have one-of-a-kind experiences while fly camping (sleeping in the bush), river tubing, working on an African cattle farm and even visiting with predator research teams. Of course, there are plenty of game drives and walking safaris, so teens can get the most epic of photos for Instagram.

Stay here: Ask for the Family Cottage at Sosian Lodge, set on 60,000 acres of Kenyan wilderness meets working cattle ranch. Another great option is Puku Ridge Camp in Zambia. Teens staying at this new lodge in South Luangwa National Park will appreciate the private plunge pools and opportunities to meet school children in local villages. Finally, for the teen who insists on having good Wi-Fi and access to tennis courts or mountain biking (not easy to find in the African bush), there’s Feline Fields in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert.

Puku Ridge Camp

More info: TheLuxurySafariCompany.com

Seattle, Washington

Best for ages: 13-18

Here’s why: The city that birthed the grunge music movement is an artsy, alternative place most teens will feel so welcome in they’ll want to move there.

Do this: Take the popular Underground Tour to see what’s beneath the city via its vast network of interconnecting tunnels. Next, visit the Museum of Pop Culture, home to exhibits like Rise Up; Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame and Heroes & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume. Teens developing a taste for coffee will also want see the many coffee shops in the city that birthed Starbucks and a growing trend toward artisanal brews. Don’t forget to catch the famous flying fish show at Pike Place Market — home to several pop-up murals that would look great on the ‘gram. Finally, adventure seekers can get their fix at the indoor ninja course at Elevated Sportz in nearby Bothell or on the miles of trails in the surrounding evergreen forests. There are also plenty of watersports to try in Puget Sound.

Stay here: Thompson Seattle is a luxury waterfront property within walking distance of Seattle’s top attractions including everything from Pike Place Market to hip vintage shops. Parents will appreciate the floor-to-ceiling views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountain Range while the kids are looking at their devices.

Thompson Seattle

More info: VisitSeattle.org

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