Matador Family Summer Guide to the US

United States Travel National Parks Family Travel
by Matador Creators Apr 9, 2015

Photo by Mali Mish.

WELCOME TO THE FIRST EVER KIDS’ DAY AT MATADOR! We’ve dedicated the entire publishing day to celebrate family travel across the US, helping you plan epic road trips, find the best places to camp, and build itineraries around the most family-friendly spots in the states. This guide is a directory to all of the Kids’ Day articles published today, with links to more resources under each category.

Much of the information here is pulled directly from our editors and writers who are giving you their “go to” places. Huge thanks as well to everyone who has helped share their family travel info via social media. To follow along, use the hasthtag #MatadorKids. Happy Kids Day!

The 20 most family friendly places in the US for the summer

lake tahoe

Photo: NKneidlphoto/Shutterstock

1. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Where: Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Why it’s so cool: You access the park via gondola, and can then go on roller coasters, giant swings, or play laser tag on the top of a mountain. The original attraction, tours of Glenwood Caverns, still run regularly, too.
What makes it so unique: Not too many theme parks sit at an altitude of 7,000 feet on the side of a mountain.
Read more: Glenwood Caverns website

2. The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

Where: Washington, DC
Why it’s so cool: Apollo 11 is there. So is the Spirit of St. Louis. It is literally the best place in the world for fans of aviation and astronauts. The very open layout makes it easy for kids to wander and explore while remaining within eyesight, and if you want a bit longer of a break, they have an IMAX, too.
What makes it so unique: It’s free, it’s on the National Mall, and no one has ever entered the building without completely nerding out.
Read more: Smithsonian Air & Space website

3. Lake Tahoe

Where: On the border of California and Nevada.
Why it’s so cool: Spectacularly scenic lake in the Sierra Nevada that’s for people of all ages. Rent helicopters, jet skis, or take lake cruises; take gondola rides up Heavenly Mountain; or take your family on hikes covering all levels of difficulty.
What makes it so unique: It’s best known as a wintertime ski spot, but with the beaches, fishing, and watersports, the second deepest lake in the U.S. might well be the best family vacation spot period.
Read more: Tahoe Visitor’s Bureau website


The 20 coolest places to camp with kids in the US this summer

Young girls washing dishes at camp

Photo: Przemek Klos/Shutterstock

1. Outer Banks, North Carolina

Where: One of the four campsites at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Why it’s so cool: 70 miles of wild Atlantic coastline accessible by 4 x 4, as well as organized camping, with epic fishing, surfing, and beach camping along the way. Here’s where you can play all day at the beach with zero other people around if you want.
What makes it unique: Wild horses running cruising around dunes.

2. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

Where: Stay/start out from Sawbill Campground
Why it’s so cool: Loons and lakeside camping Every. Single. Night. Traveling by canoe affords some creature comforts the whole family can enjoy — be it a blankie or snuggie for the kids or a can of pale ale for you. Oh, and nighttime stargazing hardly gets better.
What makes it unique: The truly great thing about the BWCAW is that you can go lake-hopping, linking the area’s almost innumerable lakes via short trails, or “portages,” over any amount of nights.

3. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Where: One of the 13 campgrounds in the park.
Why it’s so cool: Families can see three natural stone bridges up close by taking short hikes that should be easy on those with short legs. The Junior Ranger Program is a great way for both parents and kids to learn about the rich geological history of the area.
What makes it unique: First designated International Dark-Sky Park in the world.


The 10 coolest summer road trips for families in the US

roadtrip with kids
Photo: Odua Images

Photo: Odua Images

1. Pacific Northwest to Montana

This big loop is all about national parks, national forests, and some of the most unique terrain and wildlife anywhere in the world. Taking anywhere from 2 to 4 + weeks, you can go from the coastal rainforest of the Olympic Peninsula all the way to the alpine montane, geysers, and hot springs of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

  • Starting Point: Seattle or Portland
  • Follow 101 to Olympic Peninsula
  • Camping along Wild Coast
  • Special stops: La Push (good Camping, hotels, classic Washington surf spot), Hoh Rainforest
  • Take the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds back to Seattle
  • From Seattle, take I-90 East to Missoula area (7 hours) with good camping along Clark Fork River near Alberton
  • Missoula to Yellowstone National Park via Livingston (89)
  • On return trip, head back from Yellowstone via 287 along Madison River


8 American children’s museums to plan your vacation around

Kids science gifts

Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

1. The Boston Children’s Museum, Boston, MA

In many ways, the Boston Children’s Museum is very traditional, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. Three floors of exhibits will keep your kids busy for hours. Arrive in the early morning and head straight to the climbing zone in the lobby before the crowds arrive. After that, head to the construction zone where kids channel their inner Bob the Builder by taking on construction projects, balancing on a steal beam and riding a real tractor. Expect to spend at least half a day here on Boston’s Children’s Wharf and then head outside for fresh ice cream from the 40-foot tall Hood Milk Bottle.


9 ways to take better pictures of your kids

Kid with Disney-themed camera and t-shirt

Photo: BBbirdZ/Shutterstock

LET’S FACE IT, these days Facebook feeds are crammed with fairly stale, pretty boring shots of people’s kids. Stand out from the pack! If you want to bring photos of your kids to life, correct these common pitfalls and you’ll be on your way to capturing some perfect moments you’ll cherish (and probably frame) for life. Whether it’s an iPhone or a DSLR, these 9 mistakes can be easily corrected and the results can be simply outstanding.


16 most impressive national parks in the US [photos]

overrated national parks yosemite

Photo: lu sea/Shutterstock

1. Yosemite National Park, California

Besides being a national park, Yosemite is a designated World Heritage Site. Around the size of the state of Rhode Island, it has thousands of lakes and ponds and has around 1600 miles of streams and 800 miles of hiking trails.


6 survival tips for traveling with an ADHD kiddo

Photo: Olesia Bilkei/Shutterstock

1. Find a little routine wherever you can.

ADHD kids are true creatures of habit, and most need the consistency of routine to get them through the day. Finding ways to recreate their home routines while on the road can be a little challenging, so instead find a “vacation routine” for those times of day that most need it. At home, my daily morning routine with my ADHD son is non-negotiable, but on vacation we always develop a new ‘vacation’ morning routine. On our last trip, my son and I went to the same coffee shop every morning, where I ordered coffee and he ordered a chocolate croissant. We always walked back to the house along the boardwalk and sat on the front porch to enjoy our breakfast and talk about the day ahead.


7 ways for kids to talk their parents into a family trip

packing tips for traveling with children - packing with mom

Photo: Halfpoint/Shutterstock

1. ‘It would be educational and make me more well-rounded.’

Parents love that educational’ and ‘well-rounded’ stuff. You love travel. Put two and two together and keep everyone happy. Shock them by doing your homework (Not school homework, although that wouldn’t hurt — I’m talking Google). You really want to go climb in New Mexico? Throw in some specific side trips to some sites you found that will teach you about Native American culture and history. They’ll be all over that. You really want to go chill on the beach in LA? Be smart about it — don’t forget to mention that it would be a great chance for you to brush up on your Spanish with the Latino population in SoCal. Tell them that you really are feeling limited lately in your textbook-based classroom education — you are super interested all of a sudden in learning about history and culture and geography, and you are on fire to do it hands-on.


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