10 Bucket List Trips for Kids

Since there are only so many years when kids will be kids, we’ve put together 10 must-tak bucket list trips that are perfect for kids and families. 

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Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Wingaersheek (pronounced Wing-er-sheek) Beach near Gloucester, Massachusetts, is great for families because the sea here is like one giant bathtub. The ocean at Wingaersheek is largely protected by the Ipswitch peninsula, so it's usually calm and warm, creating perfect swimming conditions for the little ones. At low tide, sand flats seem to stretch forever (or at least to the Annisquam River). 960 1280

Garry Black / Getty Images  

Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Wingaersheek Beach - Massachusetts

Another benefit: glorious tide pools, which are perfect places for inquisitive tykes to get up-close-and-personal with snails, hermit crabs, sea stars and other critters. Perhaps the only downside to this natural treasure is parking; since beach access is smack in the middle of a residential area, daily fees can be steep. 960 1280

Garry Black / Getty Images  

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

Pocket beaches are plentiful along the San Mateo County Coast south of San Francisco, but Bean Hollow offers something different: privacy. Bookended by wind- and water-carved bluffs, the beach has a number of natural nooks and crannies that are perfect for family picnics--and Frisbee, book-reading or some serious sunbathing. 960 1280

A K Potts Photography / Getty Images  

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

Bean Hollow State Beach - California

There's also a self-guided nature trail that winds atop the bluffs, offering a great vantage point from which to see passing grey whales (in the winter and spring). Three miles up the road, in the sleepy town of Pescadero, be sure to bring the family on a tour of Harley Farms Goat Dairy, where kids can feed, pet and even milk a bunch of alpine goats. 960 1280

Mark Miller Photos / Getty Images  

Robert Moses State Park - New York

Robert Moses State Park - New York

When most New Yorkers seek ocean waves, they flock to Jones Beach, one of the oldest and most famous stretches of shore on the Eastern Seaboard. Farther east along the Fire Island National Seashore, however, is another beach that sees far less tourist traffic: Robert Moses State Park. Kids will love wake-boarding and wave-jumping in the lively surf; parents will appreciate that the beach isn't crawling with humans. 960 1280

Stephen O'Byrne / Getty Images  

Robert Moses State Park - New York

Robert Moses State Park - New York

Toward the eastern end of the beach, past Field 5, the circa-1891, black-and-white ringed Fire Island Lighthouse, is a living window into the past, offering tours and historical photos of yesteryear. Be warned: just beyond the lighthouse is a nude beach. 960 1280

rickberk / Getty Images  

Kure Beach - North Carolina

Kure Beach - North Carolina

This tiny seaside community sits at the southern tip of North Carolina's Pleasure Island--a strip of barrier beaches that front the Atlantic--and while some of its northern neighbors are teeming with tourists in the summer, Kure remains fairly empty. That's good news for vacationing families, who usually have most of the town's attractions to themselves. 960 1280

Gary Tognoni / Getty Images  

Kure Beach - North Carolina

Kure Beach - North Carolina

On the list of must-sees: the fishing pier, which is the oldest on the Atlantic Coast; and the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Center, which spotlights shipwrecks and dive sites nearby. The ocean beaches are breathtaking; for a more off-beat experience, hike the trail at sound-side Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and look for native plants and animals along the way. 960 1280

Gary Tognoni / Getty Images  

Ebey's Landing - Washington

Ebey's Landing - Washington

Technically speaking, Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve contains 17,500 acres, 18 farms, 400 historical structures, two state parks and the second-oldest town in the state of Washington (Coupeville). We, however, love its beach best. On a clear day, the rocky, driftwood-strewn shoreline serves up too-amazing-to-believe views of the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier off in the distance. 960 1280

Randall J Hodges / Getty Images  

Ebey's Landing - Washington

Ebey's Landing - Washington

A three-mile bluff trail provides even more perspective on these sites, and some good (read: protected from the elements) picnic spots for the family to spend an hour. For children who appreciate wildlife, nearby saltwater lagoons and wetland marshes are teeming with birds; with the right pair of binoculars, it's like going to the zoo, only free. 960 1280

nik wheeler / Getty Images  

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

This set of 3 western Caribbean islands has a ton of things to offer families who can afford to visit. Take the family swimming at Stingray City, where the kids can get up close and personal with stingrays in their natural habitat. And while you’re in a touchy-feely mood, visit Cayman Turtle Farm where the kids will love petting the marine park’s 362 turtles. The park also has breeding ponds and a hatchery where kids can interact with turtles of all sizes while learning through interactive displays about the incubation process. There’s also a tidal lagoon for snorkeling with tropical fish.

If your kids prefer to stay dry, Atlantis Submarines, a fleet of submarine and semi-submarine vessels, will take them underwater to see shipwrecks, reefs and coral canyons. As long as your little one is at least 3 feet tall, they can enjoy this undersea adventure. However, if they’re not, or you want to just frolic in the ocean, Cayman has no shortage of picturesque Caribbean beaches, such as the powdery sands of 7 Mile Beach, the most popular beach on the island. 

WHEN TO GO: If you don’t mind the heat, the best time to visit Grand Cayman is in July, when it’s low season for tourists. 

WHERE TO STAY: The Holiday Inn Grand Caymanian resort, located on the North Sound of Grand Cayman, is one of the best options for a secluded retreat from the action of Seven Mile Beach. 
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Brooklyn, New York

Brooklyn, New York

Those of us who've grown up in New York's biggest borough have always known what it has to offer. For families, Brooklyn is a more affordable and less hectic option than Manhattan. Take a leisurely walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for a clear view of the New York City skyline. 

Spend the day at the Brooklyn Museum or the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the country’s first children's museum. At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, you’ll find a 52-acre horticultural paradise and less than a mile away, in Prospect Park, you can enjoy the zoo, home to animals from diverse corners of the world such as prairie dogs, dingoes and red pandas. 

Also you can enjoy a picnic on the 12-acre grounds. Hop on the Q Train and head down toConey Island, where you and the kids can brace yourselves for a ride on the historic Cyclone, one of the nation’s oldest roller coasters. A few blocks down, visit the New York Aquarium and see one of the few baby walruses in any aquarium in the United States. 

WHEN TO GO: In early June, right before the heat and high humidity have set in. The locals come out of hibernation and the weekend street festivals begin. 

WHERE TO STAY: The New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge is in a prime location, Brooklyn Heights, and offers a stunning view of the city.
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Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

The Poconos may be well-known for its heart-shaped tubs and romantic suites, but this 2,400-square-mile stretch of Pennsylvania is more than just champagne and bubble baths. If your family loves the outdoors, there’s no shortage of things to enjoy either, like hanging out at Camelback Mountain’s waterpark or hiking near waterfalls such as Bushkill Falls. 

With 150 lakes in the area families can take a boat tour on Lake Wallenpaupack, go fishing at Skytop Lodge, white-water rafting along the Delaware River, tubing and canoeing in Milford, PA, water skiing in Beltzville State Park, and kayaking in Jim Thorpe, PA. 

WHEN TO GO: The Pocono Mountains has a plethora of activities throughout the seasons, so there’s really no right or wrong time to visit. 

WHERE TO STAY: The Poconos are home to over a dozen family resorts, from all-inclusive properties such as the Skytop Lodge to affordable, a la carte accommodations such as the Inn at Pocono Manor.
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A.GREENHILL  

Bloomington, Minnesota

Bloomington, Minnesota

If you don’t know much about Bloomington as a great family destination, you should. This suburb of Minneapolis has golf courses, art centers, wineries and vineyards, all perfect activities for mom and dad. Bloomington is also home to the Mall of America, a destination in and of itself. The mall is the second largest in the United States and the most visited mall in the world. 

Besides shopping and dining, families can visit Nickelodeon Universe, the country’s largest indoor amusement park, and SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, home to more than 10,000 sea creatures including sharks, stingrays and sea turtles. The kids will love Valleyfair, a 125-acre amusement park, and Water Park of America, the largest indoor waterpark in the United States. 

Visit Normandale Japanese Garden for rest and tranquility after all the excitement, or hop on an old-fashioned trolley to explore historic sites like the Cathedral of St. Paul, built in the early 1900s. A host of outdoor water activities such as swimming, fishing, kayaking and windsurfing on “The Lakes,” add to the range of options that make Bloomington an attractive destination for families. 

WHEN TO GO: In the summer months -- a great time to cool off in America’s largest indoor waterpark! 

WHERE TO STAY: The Hilton Minneapolis, the Sofitel or the Homewood Suites -- all family-friendly hotels near Bloomington’s major attractions.
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Ken Wolter  

San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica

There’s more to Costa Rica’s capital than rainforests and jungles, although your kids will love those, too. Families can learn about Costa Rican culture at small community museums in towns like San Vicente, Nicoya; at the National Museum (Museo Nacional de Costa Rica) in San Jose; and the Children’s Museum (Museo de los Niños), home to interactive exhibits on science, history, technology and art.

Enjoy a hike in protected national parks such as Tortuguero National Park, or walk across a suspension bridge in Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, or fish or windsurf on Arenal Lake. Families can skin dive, snorkel, rent jet skis or simply relax at any one of the beaches, such as Playa Cocles in the South Caribbean region or Playas del Coco in the Guanacaste region.

More active families can enjoy mountain biking and horseback riding on Playa Negra in Cahuita, rafting and kayaking on the Pacuare River, zip lining in a Costa Rican forest, or canopy tours in the Monteverde cloud forest. Summer hotel and airline prices are affordable and comparable for a family traveling from Washington, DC, to San Diego.

WHEN TO GO: June through early September, when the Atlantic green sea turtles are nesting. Generally, the earlier in the year (and the earlier in the nesting season) that you book your flight, the less expensive your plane tickets. 

WHERE TO STAY: 
There’s no shortage of big chain and small boutique hotels to choose from in Costa Rica, so choosing accommodations will really depend upon the region you decide to begin your family adventure.
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Kentucky State Fair

Kentucky State Fair

The Bluegrass State's big-name concerts -- including Rascal Flatts, Journey and Hank Williams Jr. -- and serious horse shows draw over 600,000 visitors to the state fair in Louisville each year. 960 1280

Kentucky State Fair  

California State Fair

California State Fair

California's State Fair in Sacramento earns the nickname "Big Fun" with a petting zoo and water park for kids, as well as live thoroughbred racing and a brewfest for adults. 960 1280

California State Fair  

Oregon State Fair

Oregon State Fair

The Oregon State Fair's biggest attractions in Salem include the Hart of the Garden made up of over 8,000 flowers and the Fairlift which gives visitors a bird's-eye-view as it travels from one end of the fairgrounds to the other. 960 1280

Oregon State Fair  

State Fair of Texas

State Fair of Texas

It's true that everything's bigger in Texas, including its state fair in Dallas which draws over 3 million people annually to see the 52-foot-tall mascot Big Tex and eat an astonishing array of fried foods. 960 1280

Kevin Brown/State Fair of Texas  

Arizona State Fair

Arizona State Fair

With over 75 rides, 100 food booths, a stellar concert lineup and warm weather, it's easy to see why the Arizona State Fair draws over 1 million visitors to Phoenix in October and November. 960 1280

Jillian Danielson  

Ohio State Fair

Ohio State Fair

In addition to agriculture, the Ohio State Fair in Columbus is heavy on entertainment where you can hear the likes of Gavin DeGraw, Jason Aldean or see a new star born during Ohio Idol. 960 1280

Ohio State Fair  

Puyallup Fair

Puyallup Fair

Don't let the name fool you, this is Washington's largest fair which draws 1.3 million visitors to Puyallup each year for rides, rodeo and the new Rainforest Adventure, where kids get the chance to experience an authentic tropical rainforest atmosphere in a lush exhibit complete with toucans, anacondas, snapping turtles, and more. 960 1280

anaxila, flickr  

Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair

Like most fairs, one of the biggest draws to the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights is the live music at the Grandstand. The second-biggest state fair in the country (second only to Texas which runs twice as long) offers entertainment that ranges from country music legend Alan Jackson to stock car races to the ever-popular live broadcast of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. 960 1280

Minnesota State Fair  

Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair

Iowa State Fair's slogan is "nothing compares," and it's true nothing compares to the life-size, 600-pound butter cow on display for the more than a million fairgoers in Des Moines each year. It also one-ups a fair staple: Food on-a-stick, offering over 50 types including the deep-fried cupcake and hot bologna on a stick. 960 1280

Iowa State Fair  

Wisconsin State Fair

Wisconsin State Fair

Held just outside Milwaukee in West Allis, otherwise known as America's Dairyland, it's no surprise the biggest attraction at the Wisconsin State Fair is the cream puffs -- betcha can't eat just one. 960 1280

Wisconsin State Fair Park  

The Big E Fair

The Big E Fair

Even though it’s located in Springfield, Massachusetts, The Big E Fair is actually New England's regional fair. Despite not technically qualifying as a state fair, any fair where you can try Maine lobster and baked potatoes as well as Vermont's maple syrup and Ben and Jerry's ice cream easily makes this list. 960 1280

TheBigE_ESE, flickr  

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