50 Great Family Adventures in the U.S.

Yes, we know: The family vacation is a much-parodied event, and perhaps rightfully so. But fumbles, foibles, and hassles aside, families keep taking them for the same good reason: They’re priceless sources of memories.

    Photo: Courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

If you’re a parent, you know, deep down, that no matter what else you’ve done—how many peaks you’ve bagged, how big a wave you’ve surfed, how much money you’ve banked—that your children are your legacy. So to say that it’s worthwhile to invest in your kids’ development is a bit of an understatement.

Children become what they’ve experienced. If you want to see them metamorphose into fully formed humans with a sense that this world can offer anything they could ever want or need, you must take them out and show that to them. If you want for your son’s spirit to be that of a grand adventurer, you need to make it so. If you want your daughter to know, for the rest of her life, that someone cared enough about her to set aside sacred days, time that nothing could interrupt, to make indelible memories together, then someone does need to care enough to actually do that.

Even if something goes wrong during an adventure—make that especially if something goes wrong—these are the moments everyone will remember most.

Kids who travel are more likely to become environmentalists—people care about saving places where they have deep-rooted memories—and they’ll probably be fitter and more confident, too, especially if the journeys instill a passion for hiking or kayaking or surfing or cycling.

Now that we’ve got you revved up to book a family adventure, we’ll present 50 great ways to do so, right here in America. These United States hold an embarrassment of natural riches: From coast to majestic coast, there are coursing rivers, otherworldy deserts, momentous mountains, dancing cultural medleys, and long stretches of black highway. 

Hundreds of companies specialize in showing off the best our homeland has to offer. The outfitters on this list, however, are particularly well-equipped to deal with kids—their trip leaders and support staff handle a rattle as well as a belay. Also: Many offer half-sized prices for half-grown people.

Note that all the dates listed for these adventures are in 2013 unless otherwise specified—so there’s no excuse to dawdle on getting a family trip on the books for this year. It might not feel like it when they’re little, but you won’t have access to your children forever. Take your full pull of what time you have with them when they’re young—it won’t come again.

SOUTHWEST
      ⇢ Abercrombie & Kent's Grand Canyon Adventure
      ⇢ Arizona River Runners' 6-Day Grand Canyon Motor Trip
      ⇢ Mauiva's Western Wonder Experience
      ⇢ Explore Worldwide's Into the Wild West Family Adventure
      ⇢ Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale Kids' Kayak Tour
      ⇢ Wild Earth Llama Adventures
      ⇢ Discovery Adventures' Historic Parks of the American Southwest

CALIFORNIA
      ⇢ Off the Beaten Path's Seasons of Yosemite
      ⇢ Bike Santa Barbara With Butterfield & Robinson
      ⇢ Safari West
      ⇢ Black Sheep Adventures' Death Valley
      ⇢ Hiking the John Muir With Mountain Travel Sobek
      ⇢ Adventure Out's Ancient Desert Survival Skills Backpacking Trip
      ⇢ Orange Torpedo's Klamath River Whitewater Rafting Trip

PACIFIC NORTHWEST
      ⇢ Rogue Wilderness Adventures' Whitewater Rafting Trip
      ⇢ San Juan Islands Family Kayak Tour
      ⇢ Lindblad's Columbia and Snake Rivers Journey
      ⇢ Row Adventures' Family Magic Rafting Trip on the Salmon River

THE ROCKIES & UTAH
      ⇢ Rainbow Trout Ranch
      ⇢ Utah Dinosaur Dig With the Museum of Western Colorado
      ⇢ REI Adventures' Family Zion & Bryce Hiking
      ⇢ Western River Expeditions' Desolation Canyon and Green River Rafting
      ⇢ Austin-Lehman Adventures' Yellowstone National Park Family Adventure
      ⇢ National Habitat's Yellowstone: Winter Photo Expedition
      ⇢ Paragon Guides' 2-Day Classic Rock-Climbing Workshop
      ⇢ Wild West Expeditions' Black Hills, Deadwood, Badlands, & Pine Ridge
      ⇢ A Colorado Ski Tour With Wilderness Expeditions
      ⇢ Classic Journeys' Montana's Glacier National Park Family Journey
      ⇢ O.A.R.S.'s Ranch & Raft on the Colorado River

HAWAII
      ⇢ Backroads' Hawaii's Big Island Family Multisport
      ⇢ Kensington Tours' Hawaii Family Adventure

ALASKA
      ⇢ Globus' Alaska Iditarod
      ⇢ Thomson Family Adventures' Alaska: Cruising the Inside Passage
      ⇢ Tauck Bridges' Alaska: Call of the Wild

THE NORTHEAST
      ⇢ Hut-to-Hut Hiking With the Appalachian Mountain Club
      ⇢ Summer Feet Cycling's Discover Acadia Tour
      ⇢ Trek Travel's Vermont Family Bicycle Tour
      ⇢ Sierra Club Outing's Cape Cod Family Adventure
      ⇢ Adventures by Disney's Mid-Atlantic Family Vacation
      ⇢ G Adventures' Tour East Coast USA
      ⇢ The Tauck Baseball Event

THE SOUTH & FLORIDA
      ⇢ Help a West Virginia Community With Global Volunteers
      ⇢ Civil War Adventure Camp
      ⇢ Amtrak Vacations' Cowboys and Cajuns
      ⇢ Wilderness Travel's Treasures of the Mississippi and the Gulf Coast
      ⇢ Great Smoky Mountains Institute's Smoky Mountains Family Camp
      ⇢ Outward Bound's Florida Ten Thousand Islands Canoeing
      ⇢ Open Water Scuba Certification in the Florida Keys

THE MIDWEST
      ⇢ Northwest Passage's Apostle Islands Sea Kayaking and Camping Trip
      ⇢ Smithsonian Journeys' Voyage to the Great Lakes: A Family Adventure

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