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Once we can all start traveling again (hopefully by the summer), families will be looking to get out and experience - and bond with quality time together in - some of the amazing places our world has to offer. Here are four of the destinations I can think of to do just that:
Fabulous Florida, the Total Package
Beaches and the warm weather are, of course, what draw most visitors to the Sunshine State, from the Keys up the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, with top destinations including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona, Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva Islands, St. Petersburg, Cocoa Beach, and on the Panhandle, Destin, Panama City, and Pensacola.
Central Florida is also well known for its family friendly allures, particularly Orlando with theme parks like Disney World, Universal's two parks, and Sea World, along with myriad other attractions and amenities both local and farther west, such as Busch Gardens and Legoland.
There's also a historic and quaint side to the state, evidenced by the Victorian architecture of Key West and Amelia Island, and historic spots such as St. Augustine (the USA's oldest city), Tampa's Ybor City district, Pensacola's colonial Spanish quarter, and of course the Deco District of south Miami Beach.
Truly the total package, Florida has the proverbial something for everyone!
Portugal's a Pleasure, from Beaches to Cities
This small, sunny, southern European country is having a bit of a moment, even though it's long been popular for its varied and beautiful beaches, as well, particularly in its southern Algarve region, but all along the Atlantic Coast up to exciting capital Lisbon and handsome Porto.
Those and other cities like Braga, Coimbra, Setúbal, and Faro each have their own wonderful culture, historic sites, and architecture. And it's all exceptionally affordable, the food and wine are delicious, and the country's compact enough to cover much of it in one trip (if you wanted to, you could experience sunrise in Braga in the north and sunset in Faro on the south coast - it's just a six-hour drive).
For families, I especially recommend Lisbon's Océanario, Europe's largest indoor aquarium, with exhibits focusing especially on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans as well as Antarctica, with more than 450 species of sea creatures including sharks, sea otters, manta rays, penguins, and more. It's a wonderful experience for kids to have, as well as learn about marine conservation and the environment. And speaking of sea creatures, down in the Algarve, there are wonderful dolphin watching tours off the coast out of Lagos, Alvor, and Praia da Rocha, watching them cavort their natural habitat, guided by certified staff members who can offer you excellent information about dolphin’s activity.
Colombia – Beaches, Historic Architecture, Mountains, & the Amazon
Why should families visit this country in northern South America? Because its even more varied in some ways than Florida or Portugal, and your kids won't be bored here for a minute. Capital Bogotá offers an exciting menu of culture, dining, museums, and the atmospheric cobblestone streets and 17th-century Spanish-colonial architecture of its oldest quarter, La Candelaria; fascinating destinations located an easy drive away include Zapaquirá, the astonishing underground "cathedral of salt" and the rolling hills of Colombia's Coffee Triangle. And speaking of Spanish colonial atmosphere, the old quarter of Cartagena on the north coast is one of the gems of the Americas, a UNESCO World Heritage time capsule. Along that same coast, families will love some of the stunning beaches in spots like Playa Blanca, Tayrona National Park, and Rosario Island.
In the mountains south of the coast, don't miss Medellín, the dynamic "city of eternal spring," famous for among other things its flower festival, a slew of whimsical modern art by native son Fernando Botero, and cable cars that are a daily part of the local public transportation system. And way down south where Colombia meets Brazil and Peru, a third of the country is part of the great Amazon rainforest, where opportunities for ecotourism and adventure will delight kids and grownups alike, and imbue everyone with a deep appreciation of our Earth's precious, increasingly endangered environment.
And all of the above come with a hefty serving of friendliness and warmth from the Colombian people. All in all, visiting this remarkable country will be a memorable and horizon-expanding experience for the entire family!
Treat Yourself in Exotic Tropical Bali
For perhaps the most far-flung and exotic experience of all on this..., this island in Indonesia is in a class by itself. With an economy these days based mostly on tourism, its main allure for visitors is also its ravishing beaches, with all kinds of attendant activities like surfing, snorkeling, diving, and other water-based sports. But what makes Bali extra special is its colorful Hindu culture (an exception in mostly Muslim Indonesia). Enrich your family by experiencing the beauty and serenity of the many Balinese temples, ceremonies, and festivals. Its traditional music and dance performances, and its gorgeous art and handicrafts (especially in towns like Ubud, away from the coast and up in the mountains).
Then there are the people who live here. It's a cliché to say the locals are "warm and welcoming," but in this case it's wholly merited. The Balinese are reknowned for their hospitality and generosity, and for a truly rewarding experience for parents and children alike, I would highly recommend looking into a "people-to-people" program that allows you to visit with a local family to see how they live, what they eat, and what their values are. Besides being enjoyable in and of itself, such and experience will be life changing for all of you, and most especially your kids.