I am a father of 3 daughters, and as 2 of them enter their tween years, it’s getting harder to find vacation spots that all of us will love. So I wondered what some of the best vacation spots for families with tweens were.
Here are some of the best places I found in doing a little research:
The best vacation spots for families with tweens include a mix of fun, excitement, education, and relaxation. Some of the best destinations for that include:
- Yellowstone National Park
- Philadelphia, PA
- New York City
- San Diego
- and Disney World
Kids aged between ten and fifteen, now known as tweens, are obsessed with learning new things which later forms a major portion of their personalities.
As a parent, you’re trying to do the best for your kid, but if you’d like to make their vacations just as educational as the rest of their academic year, here are 11 best vacation spots for tweens you should plan for.
Whether it’s summer vacation, winter vacation, or just a lucky long weekend; don’t let your kids miss out on their awesome life-transforming opportunities. What’s more; these places are as exciting for the kids as for adults.
Check out all my best travel resources and recommendations which can save you time and money on your next vacation!
Co-authored with Jenny Harrison
So here it goes, the . . . .
11 Best Vacation Spots for Families with Tweens
1. Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is loved for various reasons.
It is considered a haven for outdoor enthusiasts as it’s loaded with geothermal mysteries; the widest collection of hot springs, mud baths, and geysers.
The surrounding mountains feature rock formations that offer an unmatched exploration opportunity and beauty.
You’re also very likely to be greeted by buffalo and elk (elk more in the northern part of the park). Bear sightings are rarer, but I have seen 4 or 5 of them in my 7 trips over the years.
Moose and coyote sightings are fairly common too, but seeing a wolf, while possible, is unlikely.
Despite welcoming millions of visitors every year, the 2.2 million acres of land still remains unexplored in several regions.
There are tons of trails and you can also rent horses and travel by horseback.
Especially if you’re accompanied by tweens, get your hands on a few gadgets like binoculars and compasses to keep them excited. Here’s a good place to start.
Yellowstone National Park is the perfect marriage of education and fun and one of the best vacation spots for tweens.
2. The Grand Canyon
This place is called Grand for a reason.
The Grand Canyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site inviting nature-lovers in hordes. The Colorado River is nothing short of amazing and people from all over the world visit this spot to absorb the reflections of nature’s finest.
While the South Rim is crowded and has all the usual amenities, the North Rim is where you can find peace, camping opportunities, and hardcore hiking tracks.
In fact, of all the visitors the Grand Canyon gets each year, fewer than 10% actually go to the North Rim. The North Rim is only open from mid-May through mid-October.
That being said, it is a trek to get to the North Rim. You get here from the north end of the park and if you’re starting at the south end, that’s 220 miles. You could, however, skip the south rim altogether and just head north.
At the Grand Canyon, you can also:
- Take a helicopter tour
- Sign up for a Junior Ranger Program
- Check out the Grand Canyon Field Institute
- Ride a mule down into the belly of the canyon
If you find yourself strapped to pay for one of these tween-friendly vacations, I highly recommend you take a moment and review the ways you can have a great Vacation on a Budget (click to read my best tips).
3. Redwood National Park
Like most other national parks in the country, Redwood National Park has a unique experience to offer.
And summer is the best time to visit due to the low rainfall and warmer temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s (yes, that warm for this area!)
Fog isn’t unusual either which just adds to the mystery of these amazing trees, the tallest of which is 379.1 feet tall!
Redwood National Park is actually side by side with Redwood State Park and together they encompass 38,982 acres of forest, beaches, and grassland.
Equipped with hiking trails, campgrounds and some of the tallest trees in the world, this place takes a top spot in must-visit places, especially for tweens.
You’ll also likely see elk in the nearby Praire Creek Redwoods State Park.
Several ecosystems exist, with coastal, river, and forested areas all within the park. Talk about fun and education in one place. Redwood is easily one of the best vacation spots for tweens.
Ironically the biggest redwoods are found in Yosemite National Park, so if you’re inclined take the 8-hour drive south to Yosemite when you’re done exploring Redwood National Park.
4. Philadelphia, PA
If you or your children need to experience a chunk of history in a comprehensive 90-minute tour, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall is the place to be.
The Philadelphia’s Ghost Tour takes you through the back streets and secret gardens of the area and talks about popular landmarks like:
- Independence Hall
- The Powell House
- Society Hill
- Old City
Not only this, it educates you about the haunted houses, ghostly spirits, eerie graveyards, and unworldly ghost sightings that are documented as true.
It gives the perfect reason to huddle together when your family retires for sleep. And if your child feels too brave, a night ghost tour can probably put them right!
Beyond that though, Philly has great food AND some great museums like my personal childhood favorite (I lived in Philly from age 2-10) The Franklin Institute.
The Franklin Institute is fully interactive; climb on moving trains, planes, rocket ships and walk through a giant replica of a beating heart.
But I also love the Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle in nearby Doylestown. It’s like exploring Hogwarts as envisioned through the eyes of CS Lewis.
Lastly, you’re also only about 2 hours away from some great beaches in New Jersey.
5. American Museum of Natural History, New York
As one of the largest museums in the world, the American Museum of Natural History has colossal knowledge for the seeker.
Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it’s incredibly easy to get to by subway; just plan to get their early as this place gets crowded, especially on days when the weather isn’t great.
Spread over 2 million square feet of land, you can find over 33 million specimens of minerals, fossils, animals, plants, meteorites, rocks, humans, and cultural artifacts.
Catch one of the 120 special field expeditions to gain an in-depth insight into the topic of your interest.
It also features:
- Bird, reptile, and amphibian halls
- Hall of meteorites
- 2 enormous dinosaur halls
- a stunning planetarium
It’s the perfect place where your child’s fascination can be brought to life, just not quite like it did in Night at the Museum, which was filmed here!
BUT they do offer a Night at the Museum tour AND you can also arrange a sleepover at the museum too!
6. Niagara Falls
Sitting on the border between the USA and Canada, the Niagara Falls doesn’t need an introduction.
As one of the most iconic collections of waterfalls, this place has been a favorite for generations. The Observation Tower, located at Prospect Point, sticks out over Niagara Gorge giving you a spectacular view of all 3 waterfalls at Niagra.
But if you’re looking for an adventure while at it, the Cave of Winds is where you need to be.
An elevator shaft takes you 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge and onto the Hurricane Deck where the Bridal Veil Fall falls at over 68 mph, spraying you in a tropical storm like fashion.
The kids will love it and it’s one of the best tween-friendly vacations on the list.
The nearby Aquarium of Niagara houses Humboldt penguins, seals, and sea lions. But the area also features tons of hiking trails, and great museums such as the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, and then take a trip back in time at Old Fort Niagara, which preserves the areas military history.
Struggling to plan for one of these tween-friendly vacations? The right Vacation Planning Steps (click to read them now on my site) are crucial to getting the best deals and having enough to time save for it without going into debt.
7. Oahu, Hawaii
Oahu features Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii. But it also has the world famous Waikiki Beach. It brings the best of the seas, luxuries, and breathtaking natural beauty.
What makes this place attractive for families is the variety of things to do, from snorkeling, thriving food scene, abundant wildlife, and the Dole pineapple plantation!
In addition to those things though, your tweens can:
- Take surfing lessons
- Sailboarding and kayaking
- Tubing or banana boating behind a motorboat
You can also visit Kualoa Ranch where both Jurassic Park and 50 First Dates were filmed.
It features long valleys, dense rainforests, tall cliffs, and pristine white-sand beaches. All with the Ko‘olau Mountains in the background.
It’s like introducing your tweens to the high-life dream; an experience they can look up to when they’re not feeling their best and still bring back the lost smiles.
8. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho
This place is the weirdest of the tween-friendly vacations on the list.
Created by volcanic eruptions 15,000 years ago, this place resembles the surface of the moon and has several connecting underground passages and lava tunnels.
In fact, in 1969, NASA sent 14 astronauts to train here.
But fear not, while there are more than 25 cinder cones here, the last volcanic eruption was 2,100 years ago.
Like most parks, they have a Junior Ranger program and the kids can earn a Lunar Ranger badge too!
Hike lunar trails and since they are an International Dark Sky Park, if you’re here at night, the complete lack of light pollution provides a great view of the stars.
But perhaps the best adventure is to explore some of the 5 lava tube caves. These are caves created by lava where collapse created air pockets that are now essentially caves you can walk through.
While some easily accommodate multiple people, others are a tighter fit and not a great idea for the claustrophobic. Indian Tunnel is the best lava tube cave for taller people or those looking to avoid the tight fit of some of the other caves.
Hand your kids a searchlight and help them experience the happiness of exploration. It’s like finding your way through a maze! And by far the best part about this place is – it is free for tweens!
9. San Diego Zoo
It is one of the largest zoos in the world housing almost 4000 rare and/or endangered animal species.
This is the most diverse experience with fellow world inhabitants that you can find in one place. And we all know just how much kids love interacting with animals of all sorts.
The San Diego Zoo is also the leader in animal care and conservation.
Visit the 24 koalas in their “Australian Outback”, travel inside Panda Trek and see giant pandas in a bamboo forest habitat.
Journey through Elephant Odyssey and explore the elephant’s natural environment. Tour by double-decker bus or get a bird’s eye view from the Skyfari aerial tram.
A visit to the zoo is always as fun as it is educational and the San Diego Zoo is easily one of the best vacation spots for tweens.
10. Sanibel Island, Florida
The primary reason Sanibel Island makes this list is the abundance of seashells on this beach. Their slogan is 250 Kinds of Shells. 230 Kinds of Birds. 15 Miles of Beaches.
You and your kids can have a rather eventful afternoon at the beach, searching for seashells and bagging some of the rarest ones. The best part is there is always a souvenir you can carry back home. Outdoor activities include biking, shelling, fishing, bird watching, boating, skim boarding, golfing, snorkeling and more.
Sanibel is also home to the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, but when you’re ready to get off the beach, they also have world-class restaurants, theater, arts, and live music.
Make sure you pack a sunscreen – it’ll be a challenge getting your kids back in the car! After flying into Ft Meyers, Florida, you can get to Sanibel by car or boat.
11. Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL
This one sits at the end of this list because everyone knows and loves Disney World.
Kids love theme parks! And Walt Disney World Resort is easily one of the best vacation spots for tweens.
Of course, Toy Story Land opened in 2018 and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is coming in fall 2019. So there are more and more reasons to go!
While in Orlando, LEGOLAND and Harry Potter at Universal are worth a visit too!
Do be aware that Orlando is HOT in the summer and while I’ve done a Disney World trip in July, you’ll want to plan accordingly. June-September sees highs in the low 90’s and being on the coast, it’s also very humid.
The best strategy then is to be at the park right at opening (learn about how Rope Drop (click to read my tips) can get you on the rides even before the park opens), take a swimming break back at the hotel during the heat of the day, and then return at sundown to close out the parks.
Disney World, unlike Disneyland, also has 2 waterparks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, but admission is not included in regular park admission. BUT that could be a great way to beat the heat mid-day too.
Also unlike Disneyland, Disney World is made up of 4 separate parks which cannot be accessed by foot. So make sure to plan to drive or take Disney transportation (monorail, bus, or boat depending on where you’re going), and getting their Park Hopper ticket option allows you to bounce between the parks whenever you wish.
When you go to Disney World, make sure to brush up on all the Disney FastPass+ Secrets (click to read on this website) to make the most of your visit!
My most shared post goes into GREAT detail and I update it frequently as things change.
What age is a tween?
Since we’re looking at vacation spots for families with tweens I thought it was important to also define what a “tween” is.
A tween is a child between ages 9 and 12.
They aren’t quite a teenager yet, but they’re not a little kid anymore either. Thus, as they head towards the teen years, are starting to have raging hormones and may be entering puberty, their needs, personality, and what they do for fun is all changing.
As parents, this can be the start of a challenging road to navigate, so it’s best to embrace it, not fight it, and try and include them in the family discussions so they feel heard and supported.
Road trip activities for tweens
Some vacations require driving instead of flying, and let’s face it. Left on their own, most tweens would be on their phones or tablets the ENTIRE trip.
There’s nothing wrong with technology (without it you wouldn’t be reading this). But a vacation is a time for family bonding, shared experiences, and seeing new sites.
That just won’t happen if they are looking at a screen the whole time.
In fact, you may want to learn more about How Technology Affects the Brain Negatively (click to read my in-depth study). As limiting screen time is important on and off the road.
So while you’re on a road trip, here are some of the best activities to get your tweens off their devices and engaged with you and the experience:
- The alphabet game – My oldest daughters still love this one at ages 11 and 12. You probably know this one, but essentially you look for words outside the car that start with a letter of the alphabet, going from A to Z, moving to the next one when someone calls out the word
- Have them map out possible stops – I know you’re probably using your phone’s GPS to get you to your destination, but buy a large map for each tween you have and get them involved in the trip planning by encouraging them to find cool stops along the way to your destination. It will not only get them map reading skills, but it will keep them occupied as their search for ghost towns, hot springs, state parks and more.
- Get them books about your destination – It goes without saying that tweens need books to read in the car. But when you get them books (it probably helps to allow them to choose from a selection you pick out) it gets them invested in your destination, builds their knowledge as they learn cool facts and gets them excited about the trip
And yes, I would allow some designated screen time so there’s not a complete rebellion. But have it be at set times for a set length of time and be fair but uncompromising on that.
If any of your tweens are budding photographers, I would allow extra time on a device specifically for photo taking.
But you’ll have to monitor that to make sure they haven’t switched over to Tik Tok or whatever the latest craze is. Getting them their own inexpensive camera is an even better solution.
Did we cover all the best vacation spots for families with tweens you were looking for?
Tweens love exploring! Give them a diverse range of experiences to help them uncover their favorites.
Help them get in touch with their personality and passions. You can even help them choose items that are a must-have for camping, perfect for some of the destinations listed above.
These best vacation spots for tweens bring a bit of everything within their reach; adventure, outdoors & education.
Stimulate their mind while learning about new things in exciting ways. This post walked you through some of the very best vacation spots for tweens. Places they will want to return to again and again.
Check out all my best travel resources and recommendations which can save you time and money on your next vacation!
About the co-author of this post.
Jenny Harrison is a passionate technology and lifestyle blogger.
She loves to get engaged with the readers who are seeking for home, lifestyle and tech-related information on the internet. She is a featured blogger at various high authority blogs and magazines in which she shared her research and experience with the vast online community.
Follow her on Twitter @MJennyHarrison for more updates.
Any tips, suggestions or questions on the best vacation spots for tweens? Feel free to comment here or email anytime.