Favorite Places for Family Fun
The good, the fun, and the exciting less-known family destinations
By Heather K. Scott
While visiting famed theme parks can be fabulous fun, there are many less-known destinations that will provide equal excitement and inspiration for children. Visit some of these fantastic hidden gems for a great family vacation!
Growing up in Wisconsin, my family packed as much activity as possible into the short Midwestern summer. Each winter, my parents—and later, my sister and I—would search through encyclopedias, travel magazines, and books looking for that summer's travel destination. We loved finding those hidden gems that no one else seemed to know about: The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, tenting at Sleeping Giant National Park in Hamden, Connecticut, or the eccentric Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.
My husband has similar memories of family vacations to unusual destinations both near and far, and before our daughter was born, we began composing our own list of where we wanted to take our child: places we both enjoyed as children, and new places that we want to explore through the eyes of our daughter.
Of course visiting Disneyland, Sea World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, and other famed theme parks can be loads of fun for youngsters and parents alike. But there are many not-well-known destinations that will provide equal excitement and inspiration for your child. From Baraboo, Wisconsin to Yosemite, California—here is just a short collection to get your own list started.
Located on the original site of the Ringling Bros. Circus Winter Quarters, in Baraboo, Wisconsin, The Circus World Museum is chock full of fun for kids of all ages. The main attraction of this museum is the grand parade held each summer (usually in June or July, check the website for details). The parade is a two-and-a-half mile long extravaganza—a historical recreation of the lavish circus street parades of yesteryear. Around the same time of year, the museum hosts a weekend-long Circus Festival. The festivities include live performances under the big top, as well as the KidsWorld Circus. Displays of circus wagons, a carousel, band organ concerts, a "petting menagerie," and exotic animal rides all combine to make for a truly magical visit. Be sure to visit nearby Wisconsin Dells too, host to countless family-friendly attractions including boat rides, a breath-taking water ski show, and some of the country's largest indoor and outdoor water parks.