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Family travel has rebounded in a big way over the past year and expectations are high that it will bounce back to pre-pandemic levels in 2023. With fears of COVID-19 transmission easing, families are more ready than ever to explore popular family vacation spots like New York and Orlando, Florida, while more moderately sized cities like Portland, Maine, and Pittsburgh are also having a moment.
Fresh-air diversions continue to be among the best places to go with kids, too, making rural regions from Mendocino in California to the Berkshires in Massachusetts appealing. And thanks to a strong U.S. dollar and the lifting of coronavirus testing requirements, many of the most popular family vacation spots in Europe are an enticing proposition as well.
Continuing to balance health and safety precautions with a desire to maximize family vacation opportunities, the best places to go with kids in 2023 include all-inclusive resorts, family beach destinations, national parks and – as always – the country’s top theme parks. So, dust off your suitcases and get ready: Here are the top destinations to visit with the kids in 2023:
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1. New York
The Big Apple‘s attractions spell nonstop family fun year-round. Simply gazing at the city’s towering skyscrapers is a thrill and for many kids, the excitement of seeing a live Broadway show is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. The TKTS ticket booth sells same-day tickets to select shows at a discount of up to 50%.
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The American Museum of Natural History’s planetarium and collection of dinosaur fossils should win over even self-proclaimed museum haters, while Central Park’s zoo antique carousel and lakes attract families like a magnet by offering a quiet respite from urban energy.
Stay at Thompson Central Park, which has modern guest rooms plus an in-house restaurant called Burger Joint that serves up one of the best burgers in the city at a surprisingly reasonable price.
2. Lake Como, Italy
Italy has always been one of the best places to go with kids and idyllic Lake Como is the cherry on top. With public ferries that are a perfect perch for sightseeing and sleek yachts owned by Hollywood celebs that will wow even jaded teens, the lake is the sparkling centerpiece of this slice of Italian paradise.
The lovely lakeside promenade is even stroller-friendly for families vacationing with toddlers and gelato shops around every corner keep the whole family refreshed. Ride the funicular up the steep mountainside and in seven minutes you’ll arrive in Brunate, a frozen-in-time hilltop village with views of the lake and the nearby Alps.
Splurge on this European getaway with a stay at Vista Palazzo Lago di Como, where everyone in the family can enjoy the perks of full butler service.
3. Mendocino, California
With majestic redwoods and rugged cliffs overlooking the windswept Pacific, Mendocino County is an immersion in nature. Hike the fern-filled forest at Van Damme State Park, spot seals as you paddle an outrigger canoe in the Big River Estuary and pedal a two-person railbike surrounded by towering trees.
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Satiate your hunger at Frankie’s, where pizza is adorned with adventurous toppings and ice cream sundaes are a frosty fantasy. Top off your visit at Little River Inn, which has tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, rooms with ocean views and breakfast featuring Swedish hotcakes.
Once known for steel and coal, Pittsburgh has traded industry for cultural institutions that are heavy on family appeal and light on pretensions. For a sky-high perspective of Pittsburgh’s three rivers, ride the Duquesne Incline’s wooden cable cars, which is a great way for kids to take in the city before exploring its many charms.
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Sports fans will appreciate Pittsburgh’s legendary passion for sports at the Senator John Heinz History Center’s Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, while the Carnegie Science Center‘s interactive exhibits are a paradise for curious minds. And kids of all ages will find something to enjoy at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, where cutting-edge experiences in art and technology always offer something fun to do.
For spacious rooms and grand public spaces, stay at Omni William Penn Hotel.
5. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
On Vancouver Island, Victoria blends old-world charm with Western Canada cool. The showery climate is a springboard for lush blooms that grace postcard-pretty parks and gardens.
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At Butchart Gardens, families with little ones can meander stroller-friendly paths and soak in the floral splendor. Bucolic Beacon Hill Park has a petting zoo and totem poles dispersed among ponds, lakes and streams. Or enjoy aquatic serenity on a whale-watching cruise departing from the Inner Harbour before you head indoors to explore Canada’s First Nations People at the Royal BC Museum.
Stay near the Inner Harbour at the boutique and family-friendly Magnolia Hotel and Spa.
6. Portland, Maine
Breathe salty air and see seagulls strut in Portland, a small Maine city that’s tethered to the sea. Kids will love watching the lobster boats dock in the harbor before catching a ferry to one of the timeless Casco Bay islands.
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Sample local seafood at Luke’s Lobster, where clam chowder is heavenly and lobster rolls are luscious and visit the aquarium at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine to see turtles, sunfish, frogs and other marine species up close.
Stay at Cambria Hotel Portland Downtown Old Port within walking distance from waterside attractions.
With more than 140 languages spoken, Houston is one of the best places to go with kids while celebrating the nation’s diversity of cultures and experiences. At Smither Park, a medley of mosaics adds up to a vibrant outdoor gallery. Artists work on this evolving project on Saturdays, providing an opportunity to observe the creative process.
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Head to Rice University to experience James Turrell’s Twilight Epiphany Skyspace. Enter the spaceship-like structure and enjoy an ever-changing play of light and psychedelic vibes. And for the granddaddy of interactive experiences, try on a spacesuit and helmet as you explore the workings of mission control at Space Center Houston.
Stay at Hotel Zaza in the heart of Houston’s Museum District. Zaza’s over-the-top cattle horn accents add a Texas twist.
8. Williamstown, Massachusetts
A patchwork of cute hamlets nestled among rolling hills and mountains, The Berkshires is a fabulous place to go with kids for a classic New England vacation any time of year. Consider Williamstown, a sweet little village that’s infused with youthful energy courtesy of Williams College.
Here you can browse mom-and-pop bookstores, eat ice cream at Lickety Split and enjoy the Clark Art Institute’s rich family programming and world-class collection of Impressionist art. The Clark’s acres of meadows and walking trails are home to a friendly herd of pastured cows, an unexpected delight.
Beach fun and Caribbean culture meet in Curacao, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands that embraces its multicultural identity. Gorgeous beaches like Grote Knip have soft sand, gentle waves just right for little swimmers and water that’s as blue as a sapphire.
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Willemstad, the cosmopolitan capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, charms with candy-colored buildings and vibrant street art. Go hands-on and paint your own Chichi doll, one of Curacao’s most recognizable crafts. Stay at Avila Beach Hotel, which has a protected beach and an infinity pool that are pure tropical fantasy.
The city of London is one of the most kid-friendly cities in the world and an especially great place for family vacations with teenagers. Enjoy a birds-eye view of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament from the London Eye, the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. If your kids are Potterheads, don’t miss the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter, where the whole family can explore the Wizarding World at the studio where the eight films were produced.
There are parks and playgrounds galore in London, too. At the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, the massive Captain Hook’s wooden pirate ship and collection of teepees should get everyone’s imagination spinning.
Stay at The Dilly, which has a children’s library, large indoor pool and a Peter Rabbit-themed tea you won’t want to miss.
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FamilyVacationist.com covers family vacation ideas; family vacation spots; all-inclusive family resorts; and must-have travel accessories for families of all shapes, sizes and orientations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.