Best Family Vacations
Photograph by Todd Anderson
Looking for the nation's best family destinations? So were we. And we found them by surveying those who know best: real families traveling with kids ages 3 to 12. We asked 2,000 respondents in four regions to rate more than 400 vacation spots in six categories. Our families hailed from around the country, but to make sure we got the inside scoop, we had them evaluate places only within their own region. In the pages that follow, you'll discover the top 10 winners in each category, all of which had to receive a minimum number of votes and a top score to make our list. We've also put together a Top 12 list (below) ranking the highest-scoring destinations from each category. You'll probably see a few of your own family favorites here and learn about some lesser-known gems just begging for discovery. And no matter where your next vacation takes you -- around the block or across the continent -- you'll carry the invaluable experience of 2,000 adventurous families along with you.
Top 12 Favorite Family Destinations
1. Magic Kingdom Park
2. Universal's Islands of Adventure
3. Orlando, Florida
4. The Strong Museum
5. Mount Rushmore National Memorial
6. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
7. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
8. Toledo Zoo
9. Yellowstone National Park
10. National Mall and Memorial Parks
11. San Antonio, Texas
12. Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
Top 10 National Parks and Preserves
Photograph by W. Drew Senter/Flickr Open
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC & TN
We challenge you to describe this 521,000-acre park without superlatives. It is, after all, America's most-visited national park, showcasing the Southeast's most rugged mountains and offering hikers the highest vantage point in Tennessee (Clingmans Dome, at 6,643 feet). Visitors are drawn by its extraordinary variety: forested mountains, verdant valleys, streams and waterfalls, historic buildings, and abundant wildlife (it's the salamander capital of the world). One Georgia family summed up the essence of the park's appeal this way: "The sheer beauty of the Smoky Mountains keeps us coming back."
2. Yellowstone National Park, WY, MT, & ID
In 1872 Yellowstone was established as a national park (the first in the country) to protect its 300 geysers, and they remain one of its major attractions, along with some 10,000 other spectacular hydrothermal features, such as steam vents, mud pots, and hot springs. There are also dazzling waterfalls, petrified trees, striated canyons, and 423 species of native wildlife. It's hard to disagree with the Utah mom who told us, "Yellowstone is filled with natural wonders you can't find anywhere else on earth."
3. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
"It's always cool there," said one dad from Tennessee, and he wasn't just talking temperature. Beneath the wooded trails and glimmering rivers of the park lies the world's longest cave system: 400 miles of labyrinths, chambers, massive natural pillars, towering underground domes, eerie stalactites, and a winding underground river. Visitors can choose from a variety of guided tours, including a 75-minute stroll ending at a flow stone waterfall and a challenging, six-hour belly crawl through some of the cave's narrowest passages.
4. Yosemite National Park, CA
The towering granite cliffs, sweeping views, flowering meadows, and awe-inspiring giant sequoias here inspired early conservationists, such as John Muir, one of the founders of the Sierra Club, and helped launch the national park system.
5. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN
Comprising more than a million acres on Lake Superior, this wilderness is a canoeist's and fisherman's paradise, with its thousands of lakes and streams dotted by islands and bordered by sandy beaches, rocky shores, and pristine forests.
6. Acadia National Park, ME
Freshwater lakes, ocean beaches and tide pools, the tallest mountain on the East Coast, 125 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of scenic carriage roads -- perfect for walking, biking, and horseback riding -- draw more than 2 million visitors a year to Acadia.
7. Zion National Park, UT
Famous for its Navajo Sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons, and natural arches, Zion supports an unusually wide diversity of plant and animal life, owing to its unique geography.
8. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Carved by the Colorado River over millions of years, the Grand Canyon is overwhelming in its sheer massiveness, extending for 277 miles, stretching up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep in places, and revealing nearly 2 billion years' worth of geological history.
9. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI
Forget ocean beaches and remote deserts: you can explore dramatic sand dunes right here along 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. If you're hankering for something more refreshing, check out the more than 20 inland lakes.
10. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
Teddy Roosevelt's original 19th-century cabin still stands (relocated next to the South Unit Visitor Center), and bison, wild horses, and elk continue to roam these rugged North Dakota badlands, thanks to an ongoing wildlife management program.
Top 10 Family Museums
Photograph Courtesy of the Strong Museum
1. The Strong Museum, Rochester, NY
It's easy to see why the Strong made it to the top of our list, since the museum (which includes the National Museum of Play, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, and the National Toy Hall of Fame) is all about that perennial goal of childhood: having fun. Among its treasures are a life-size pop-up book; an interactive exhibit exploring the history of video games; 15 years' worth of its Hall of Fame inductees (from the cardboard box to the Nintendo Game Boy); and more than 400,000 other toys, games, dolls, and playthings.
2. Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Chicago, IL
What would you expect to find in the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere? How about a real World War II U-boat, a simulated tornado four stories high, a Boeing 727, a tour through a coal mine, a giant hamster wheel, and an Omnimax theater? They're all here, along with thousands of other hands-on exhibits, science demonstrations, and special events. No surprise, then, that one Michigan family said, "We could spend days there exploring all the sections."
3. Children's Museum of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
Survey respondents called it "amazing," "mind-expanding," and "always changing," and that only begins to describe a museum with a mission to transform lives. It aims to do that through exhibits (many of them interactive) that excite, engage, and delight kids of all ages, including a steam-powered locomotive, an Indy race car, a towering water clock, rare fossils (including a mummified dinosaur), a climbable rock wall, a vintage carousel, a planetarium, live theater, and more.
4. American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
With more than 32 million specimens, 45 permanent exhibition halls, a planetarium, an Imax theater, and 145 years of scientific inquiry behind it, this Manhattan gem offers something for everyone at a fabulous location, just across the street from Central Park.
5. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC
It's the most visited museum in the country -- and for good reason. Located in the heart of the nation's capital, its collection includes 127 million-plus items: cultural artifacts, dinosaur skeletons, fossils, minerals, rocks, plants, animals, and much more. There's even a live butterfly pavilion and insect zoo.
6. The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA
The passionately curious, inventive spirit of Benjamin Franklin is alive and well at this venerable science and technology museum, where interactive exhibits and playful hands-on activities inspire learning and discovery.
7. The Field Museum, Chicago, IL
Over a century after it was founded to house exhibits for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the Field remains dedicated to exploring, understanding, and celebrating the diversity and interdependence of life on Earth.
8. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC
Through interactive exhibits, flight simulators, a planetarium, an observatory, an IMAX theater, and a treasure trove of historic aircraft and spacecraft -- from the Wright brothers' first powered plane to the Apollo 11 Command Module -- the museum showcases the science and the creativity behind the human passion for flight.
9. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY
The Hall of Fame, paying tribute to the more than 300 baseball greats who've been inducted here, is just one of the site's many attractions; all told, the museum features more than 40,000 artifacts, 3 million documents, and a quarter-million-plus photographs tracing the history of America's favorite pastime.
10. Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia, PA
Live theater, art activities, music and dance performances, seven exhibit (aka "play") zones, and an historic carousel are all part of the irresistible fun at this family destination aimed at children age 7 and under.
Top 10 Historic Sites
Photograph by Nagelestock.com/Alamy
1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, SD
Pictures fail to communicate the heart-stirring experience of viewing Mount Rushmore face-to-face. "My daughter and her friend were awed by the sheer size of it," said one Michigan mom, who declared the Evening Lighting Ceremony (held from late May through late September) a must-see. You can also hike the Presidential Trail for amazing close-up views of the memorial, and at various times of the year, tour the studio of its creator (sculptor Gutzon Borglum), visit a Native American village, and take part in a ranger-led walk or talk.
2. National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, DC
Located in the heart of our nation's capital, the Mall and Memorial Parks encompass some of the country's most iconic attractions. Every year more than 24 million visitors come to D.C. to stroll by the Washington Monument and its reflecting pool, tour the Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr., memorials, pay tribute at the World War II and Vietnam Veterans memorials, visit one of the nine Smithsonian museums, take a spin on the Smithsonian carousel, and contemplate the meaning of democracy.
3. The White House, Washington, DC
You can't get much closer to living history than the White House. It's not just the residence of the President, it has been the residence of every president since John Adams. It's where Lincoln discussed Civil War strategy with General Grant and FDR signed Social Security into law. While only part of the house is open to visitors, official tours take you through the East Room (home to presidential receptions), Blue Room (where you can see the glorious White House Christmas tree during the holidays), State Dining Room, and more.
4. Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield, IL
The story of Abraham Lincoln's rise to prominence is told through films, guided tours, and the everyday artifacts in the restored Greek Revival home he shared for 17 years with his wife, Mary, and their four young sons.
5 . World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument (includes Pearl Harbor Visitors' Center and 8 other sites in 3 states), HI, AK, CA
This constellation of historic sites anchored by Pearl Harbor traces the dramatic story of the Pacific War and pays tribute to its fallen heroes through moving first-person accounts, photographs, memorabilia, artifacts, and a memorial hovering above the sunken remains of the battleship USS Arizona.
6. Statue of Liberty National Monument/Ellis Island, NY and NJ
Standing as a beacon of freedom, for more than 125 years the Statue of Liberty has greeted visitors to New York Harbor, among them the 12 million immigrants who passed through neighboring Ellis Island on their way to a new life in America. Most of the exhibits, which narrate our nation's immigration history, are still closed due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. Check the website for up-to-date information.
7. Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT
Costumed re-enactors bring New England's seafaring history to life through interpretive demonstrations and theatrical performances amid authentic New England buildings, historic vessels, and preservation workshops in a recreated 19th-century maritime village.
8. Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, Fishers, IN
Join an early 19th-century pioneer community, explore a traditional Lenape Indian camp, discover the science behind early balloon voyages, and get up close and personal with a host of farm animals at this 800-acre living history site.
9. Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord and Lexington, MA
Tracing the five-mile route followed by British soldiers and colonial Minute Men on April 19, 1775, this collection of historic sites illuminates the first battle of the American Revolution and the fateful events surrounding "the shot heard 'round the world."
10. National September 11 Memorial and Museum, New York, NY
Two huge reflecting pools edged by massive waterfalls mark the footprints of the World Trade Center's twin towers, destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 lives lost that day in New York and Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, as well as the six lost in the 1993 towers attack. The nearby visitor center (opening this spring) and a memorial preview site tell the story of the tragedy through artifacts, photographs, and films, and offer opportunities for visitors to share their own memories.
Top 10 Kid-Friendly Cities
Photograph by Visit Orlando
1. Orlando, FL
If you think "theme parks" when you hear "Orlando," who can blame you? Disney World alone boasts four of them, plus two water parks, then there's Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, and more. But as one Florida family noted, "There are so many things to do besides the theme parks." You can also explore the world's most famous sunken ship at Titanic The Experience; skydive indoors at iFLY Orlando; take a guided planetary tour at Orlando Science Center; and enjoy balloon rides, lakes, hiking trails, live theater, and art museums.
2. San Antonio, TX
Remember the Alamo? It's just one of the many historic sites that families say draw them to this charming Southern city renowned for its Spanish-style architecture. Another word we heard again and again: beauty. You'll find it in abundance in the parks, in the famous Hill Country, at the Spanish colonial missions, and along River Walk. The last meanders through San Antonio's old downtown, past much of what makes this city a favorite destination: shops, museums, terrific restaurants, and great public spaces.
3. San Diego, CA
With 70 miles of pristine coastline -- from Coronado's glittering sands and the calm waters of Mission Bay to the surf's-up vibe of Swami's Beach -- San Diego is a year-round haven for lovers of all things watery. When enumerating the city's virtues, most families mentioned the great weather. All that warm sunshine makes it easy to take advantage of San Diego's other attractions as well: spectacular scenery, SeaWorld and other theme parks, the museums and gardens of Balboa Park, and that world-famous zoo.
4. New York, NY
From Broadway to Times Square, Central Park to the High Line, the Empire State Building to Rockefeller Center, the "Big Apple" is bursting with cultural and historic icons. Its five boroughs offer so many things to do and see, you'll be awed just by the sheer volume of possibilities.
5. Washington, DC
It's not only the seat of our nation's government and home to our president, Congress, and Senate, it's also the site of the largest museum and research complex in the world -- the Smithsonian Institution -- and more than a dozen iconic national monuments and memorials.
6. Portland, ME
Spread along the mouth of the Fore River and Casco Bay, this historic port city has been experiencing a renaissance of late, with a thriving music, arts, and restaurant scene complementing its bevy of family-friendly museums and attractions, outdoor activities, maritime excursions, and fairs and festivals.
7. Boston, MA
Relive key moments in American history along the Freedom Trail; ride the Swan Boats in the Boston Public Garden; peruse the shops of historic Faneuil Hall; and visit the New England Aquarium and other world-class science, art, and children's museums, then head across the river for a tour of Harvard Yard.
8. Chicago, IL
Whether you're flying high on the Navy Pier Ferris wheel; admiring the view from the Willis Tower Skydeck; exploring the aquarium, planetarium, botanic garden, zoos, and museums; or touring Lake Michigan on a sightseeing cruise, you'll find no shortage of family fun in the Windy City.
9. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
Sure, you could spend all your time at the massive Mall of America in neighboring Bloomington (aside from all the stores, it contains an aquarium and a seven-acre amusement park), but then you'd miss the Twin Cities' miles of hiking and biking paths, acres of parks and lakes, wealth of entertainment and sporting venues, and signature celebrations, such as the Minnesota State Fair and the St. Paul Winter Carnival.
10. San Francisco, CA
With its many unique ethnic, cultural, and historic neighborhoods, San Francisco is like a dozen cities in one -- and there are enough parks, museums, restaurants, and attractions to outfit them all. Plus, getting around is half the fun, thanks to the city's famous cable cars and jaw-dropping hills.
Top 10 Theme Parks
Photograph by David Sucsy/Getty Images
1. Magic Kingdom Park, Orlando, FL
Not just our top theme park, it's also our top attraction overall, and that should come as a surprise to no one. The Magic Kingdom, after all, is quintessential Disney, from Cinderella Castle to Pirates of the Caribbean to that famous flying elephant -- the perfect place for your kids to get face time with their favorite characters and thumb their noses at gravity on a world-class selection of rides. A South Carolina family nailed it when they called the Kingdom "a complete escape from our normal lives."
2. Universal's Islands of Adventure, Orlando, FL
Yes, it's home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and for fans of the boy wizard, that's reason enough to visit this attraction-packed theme park. But don't end your trip at Hogwarts. There are six other "islands," each devoted to a favorite movie, character, or group of characters, and each offering enough shows, interactive attractions, and topflight rides to keep kids and adults entertained for the better part of a day. In fact, one Florida dad called the rides "the best of any park I've ever been to." We bet he's not the only one who feels that way.
3. Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA
More families had visited here than any other destination in our survey, and many explained their choice in just two words: "It's Disneyland!" Nowhere else does the expression "something for everyone" ring so true. In a single day, you can journey to a galaxy far, far away on the Star Tours attraction, go for a spin at a mad tea party, and speed down a five-story waterfall. Families appreciated the attention to detail and the friendly environment. Said a California mom: "Everyone makes it their mission to ensure that you have a good time and that the kids believe in the magic."
4. Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH
Cedar Point bills itself as the "roller coaster capital of the world," and with good reason. The park has 17 coasters offering stomach-wrenching drops of as much as 300 feet and speeds of up to 93 mph, plus thrill rides, tamer family areas, a boardwalk, water sports, and a mile-long beach along Lake Erie.
5. Universal Studios Florida, Orlando, FL
Get your thrills amid scenes from popular movies and TV shows on rides such as Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Men in Black Alien Attack, and Kang and Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl.
6. Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, CA
Disney and Pixar stories and characters come to life in eight themed lands featuring live shows, rides, boardwalk games, and interactive experiences.
7. Disney's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, FL
With more than 1,700 animals representing 250 species, this sprawling park offers an impressive mix of animal encounters, thrill rides, games, shows, and other attractions.
8. Disney's Hollywood Studios, Orlando, FL
Immerse yourself in the magic of Disney movies and TV shows: meet your favorite characters, watch live stage shows and a 3D movie, and explore a huge selection of themed rides and attractions.
9. Kings Island, Mason, OH
In addition to family and thrill rides like the brand new Banshee -- the world's longest inverted roller coaster -- Kings Island also features a special Planet Snoopy section for its youngest visitors, an animatronic dinosaur park, and a 33-acre waterpark.
10. Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, VA
Along with a wide range of amusement-park rides and theatrical performances, this lushly landscaped park is home to a host of animals on display, including wolves, eagles, alligators, and pythons, as well as such domesticated species as Clydesdale horses, sheep, and border collies.
Top 10 Zoos and Aquariums
Photograph by National Geographic Image Collection
1. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Omaha, NE
"I've been to many zoos in much larger places, and this is one of the best in the U.S.," raved a mom from Iowa. Maybe that's because this zoo thinks big: three of its exhibits -- the indoor desert, indoor rain forest, and nocturnal animal hall -- rate among the world's largest. Add to that an aquarium that invites you to walk on the ocean floor as sea creatures shimmy around you, and you can understand why the only complaint we heard was that there's too much to do here in a single day.
2. Toledo Zoo, Toledo, OH
Founded more than a century ago, this 74-acre zoo has been going through a growth spurt. In the past 15 years, it's added four substantial exhibits: Tembo Trail (which allows visitors to see elephants eye-to-eye), Nature's Neighborhood (an award-winning children's zoo), Africa! (featuring acres of animals, plus town, village, and bush areas), and Arctic Encounter (with polar bears and seals, in and out of the water). An Ohio family cheered: "The improvements in this zoo are awesome!"
3. Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL
This sprawling 216-acre zoo has more than 20 separate exhibits highlighting many of the world's major wild habitats, from the Swamp, with its crocs, snakes, and North American river otters, to the Fragile Rain Forest, home to such rare species as the clouded leopard and the even rarer binturong, a nocturnal tree dweller native to Southeast Asia. Families love the zoo's emphasis on education -- there are docents everywhere who offer fascinating tidbits about the animals -- and its parklike atmosphere (it's also a botanical garden). "It only improves with time," one Illinois family told us, "and it's so great for kids and adults, educational and tons of fun."
4. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL
It may be a national historic landmark, but Shedd Aquarium is far from behind the times. Recent additions to this venerable institution include a $45 million Wild Reef exhibit, comprising 26 interconnected habitats, and Amazon Rising, which traces the seasonal cycles of the Amazon River floodplain.
5. SeaWorld, San Diego, CA
San Diego celebrates SeaWorld's 50th anniversary this spring with the opening of Explorer's Reef, a multimillion-dollar renovation that includes four touch pools with a total of 26,000 gallons of water teeming with sharks, rays, skates, horseshoe crabs, and other sea creatures.
6. SeaWorld Orlando, Orlando, FL
Part adventure ride, part simulation, and part animal encounter, SeaWorld Orlando's newest attraction -- Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin -- transports visitors into an icy habitat housing nearly 250 penguins from four species.
7. Fort Worth Zoo, Fort Worth, TX
Two baby elephants and a jaguar cub, all born last year, join perennial favorites, such as the Texas Wild exhibit, housing eight acres of native species, and the Museum of Living Art, a 30,000-square-foot reptile and amphibian facility opened in 2010.
8. Bronx Zoo, Bronx, NY
Stroll the world's richest habitats -- from the African plains to the Himalayan highlands to the island of Madagascar -- without leaving the city in this 265-acre zoo.
9. San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA
With more than 3,700 rare and endangered animals and a botanical collection of more than 700,000 exotic plants, the San Diego Zoo occupies a prime location -- in Balboa Park -- adjacent to a host of museums, gardens, recreational facilities, and other attractions.
10. SeaWorld San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
Home to the educational Animal Connections Conservation Center, this San Antonio park features many of SeaWorld's most popular rides and attractions, plus a few you'll find only here, including Alligator Alley and Flamingo Cove.
2013 Winners: Top 10 Favorite Family Destinations
Scores are based on a 100-point scale.
- Yellowstone National Park: WY, MT, ID (Score: 97)
- Acadia National Park: ME (Score: 95)
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park: NM (Score: 94)
- Grand Canyon National Park: AZ (Score: 94)
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial: SD (Score: 94)
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: MI (Score: 94)
- Yosemite National Park: CA (Score: 94)
- Disney's Magic Kingdom Park: FL (Score: 93)
- Glacier National Park: MT (Score: 93)
- Pearl Harbor Visitor Center/USS Arizona Memorial: HI (Score: 93)
2013 Winners: Top 10 Tourist Attractions
1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Keystone, SD (Score: 94)
An impressive percentage of Mount Rushmore's 3 million annual visitors seem to be FamilyFun survey respondents. "This exhibit is history, art, nature, and social studies all rolled into one," raved a Michigan mom in a representative comment. One of the top-five scorers in our survey, the towering marvel, framed by the magnificent Black Hills, can't help but inspire contemplation of essential American ideals.
2. Pearl Harbor Visitor Center/USS Arizona Memorial: Honolulu, HI (Score: 93)
Straddling the sunken hull of the battleship USS Arizona, which went down in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the memorial pays hushed tribute to the valor and sacrifice of her lost crewmen. The onshore visitors' center -- featuring waterfront displays, two exhibit galleries, and two theaters -- as well as the survivors who are often on-site sharing their stories help bring home the experience, "a moving visit for our children," summed up one guest.
3. Statue of Liberty National Monument: New York, NY (Score: 91)
Given by the people of France to commemorate the 1876 United States Centennial, Lady Liberty stands just over 305 regal feet tall from ground to torch tip. A universally revered symbol of freedom, the copper colossus has been called "a masterpiece of the human spirit" by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organization). Our survey takers agree. "Such an important part of our history," commented one mom, "and it's beautiful to see." at press time, the landmark was closed for repairs due to Hurricane Sandy. Check the website for up-to-date information.
4. Colonial Michilimackinac: Mackinaw City, MI (Score: 91)
5. Niagara Falls State Park: Niagara Falls, NY (Score: 91)
6. The White House: Washington, DC (Score: 89)
7. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library And Museum: Springfield, IL (Score: 89)
8. George Washington's Mount Vernon: Mount Vernon, VA (Score: 89)
9. The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village: Dearborn, MI (Score: 89)
10. Fort Mackinac: Mackinac Island, MI (Score: 89)
2013 Winners: Top 10 Tourist Towns
Monterey, CA photograph by Katrine Naleid
1. Mackinaw City, MI (Score: 89)
This charming resort town is the gateway to Michigan's rugged upper Peninsula (via the world's third-longest suspension bridge), to historic Mackinaw Island with its famous Grand Hotel (by ferry), and to the area's many museums, lighthouses, forts, and campgrounds (by car, bicycle, and foot). During summer months, the village (population: 806) welcomes some 1.2 million visitors. Families say they love this spot on the Straits of Mackinac, between Lakes Huron and Michigan, for its combination of history and nature. They also come for Mackinac fudge, a treat so popular it's celebrated with an annual festival.
2. Monterey, CA (Score: 88)
Nestled along a crescent of pristine Monterey Bay, this unimaginably scenic spot is as rich in family activities as it is in aquatic life. Seafaring sorts strike out on whale watches, kayak expeditions, and glass-bottom boat tours of one of the world's most important marine preserves. More lubberly types opt for hikes along breathtaking coastal trails and the land-ho! enticements of Cannery Row -- a once scruffy, seafood-packing district turned shop-lined tourist attraction. Everybody loves the beaches and the celebrated Monterey Bay aquarium. "We had gone on our honeymoon," said one mom, capturing the city's broad appeal, "and it was just as nice taking our child twelve years later."
3. Lake Tahoe Region, CA & NV (Score: 87)
North America's largest alpine lake sparkles throughout the seasons. "Absolutely beautiful, with so much to do," wrote a California family. Winter months bring a nonstop carnival of skiing, snowshoeing, dog-sled tours, and ice-sculpture contests set amid the frosted peaks of the Sierra Nevada. In summer, outdoor enthusiasts indulge in such pursuits as mountain biking, water sports, and hot-air balloon rides above the rugged scenery. all year round, wall-to-wall festivals -- music, theater, yoga, food -- keep things lively.
4. Gulf Shores, AL (Score: 85)
5. St. Augustine, FL (Score: 85)
6. Duluth, MN (Score: 84)
7. Wildwood And Cape May, NJ (Score: 84)
8. Traverse City, MI (Score: 83)
9. Myrtle Beach, SC (Score: 83)
10. Bar Harbor, ME (Score: 83) & Wilmington, NC (Score: 83)
2013 Winners: Top 10 Museums, Zoos, & Aquariums
1. Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History: Washington, DC (Score: 92)
Home to the famous Hope Diamond, among countless other amazing objects (actually, some dedicated civil servant did count them: there are more than 127 million), this branch of the Smithsonian Institution is the ultimate discovery center. Some families can't get enough of the dinosaur hall and the immersive live butterfly pavilion. Others make a beeline for the entomology collections -- more than 35 million creepy-crawly specimens -- and the live tarantula feedings at the insect zoo. Whatever you're drawn to, you're bound to spend many enthralling hours here.
2. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium: Omaha, NE (Score: 92)
"The most amazing zoo I've ever seen!" gushed a North Dakota mom about this crowd-pleaser on the Plains. The 130-acre zoo houses thousands of animals in extravagantly re-created habitats. Guests can wend their way through the world's largest indoor desert, gaze upon a tropical rain forest populated by macaws and gibbons, and traverse a window-lined tunnel through a valley where gorillas roam -- and be amazed every step of the way.
3. Saint Louis Zoo: St. Louis, MO (Score: 92)
Did you know the snow leopard, native to the mountains of central Asia, is able to leap 30 feet in a single bound? You can bet your 6-year-old does -- or will after a visit to the Saint Louis Zoo. Divided into seven beautifully realized zones, the park features everything from petting-zoo bunnies to the rarest of big cats, all presented with a message of conservation and good stewardship. The best part, parents told us: admission is free, so you don't feel pressured to see it all in one day.
4. Museum of Science and Industry: Chicago, IL (Score: 92)
5. Museum of Science: Boston, MA (Score: 91)
6. Steinhart Aquarium: San Francisco, CA (Score: 91)
7. Smithsonian's National Museum of American History: Washington, DC (Score: 91)
8. The Field Museum: Chicago, IL (Score: 91)
9. Shedd Aquarium: Chicago, IL (Score: 91)
10. Tennessee Aquarium: Chattanooga, TN (Score: 91)
2013 Winners: Top 10 Nature Escapes
1. Yellowstone National Park: WY, MT, ID (Score: 97)
Established by an act of Congress in 1872, our first National Park spans almost 3,500 square miles of mountain ranges, grasslands, forests, canyons, rivers, and high-altitude lakes. Home to some 60 mammal species, denizens include the country's largest public bison herd, more than 30,000 elk, and some 600 grizzly bears. The park also contains more than half the world's geysers, most famously Old Faithful, which shoots a plume of boiling water to an average height of 130 feet every hour and a half. Said one wowed family, "We spent a week there and were barely able to scratch the surface of all the places we wanted to see."
2. Acadia National Park, ME (Score: 95)
"The beauty of the park astounded us," wrote one visitor about Acadia, which comprises a cluster of islands off the granite coast of Maine. Surrounded by the Atlantic, the over 47,000-acre preserve presents an incredible diversity of terrain -- mountains, lakes, forests, streams, alpine meadows, tidal pools -- connected by hiking trails and a network of picturesque 19th-century carriage roads. Families come to camp, hike, bike, swim, and wildlife-watch. The more adventurous greet a new day from the lichen-covered summit of Cadillac Mountain, one of the first spots in the nation to see the sunrise.
3. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM (Score: 94)
Humorist Will Rogers called Carlsbad the "Grand Canyon with a roof on it." Our voters say it's simply grand. Located in the Guadalupe Mountains at the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert, the park features some of the largest and deepest limestone chambers anywhere on earth. Courageous visitors can explore snaking subterranean passages on a paved, lighted trail, where they'll encounter stunning mineral formations with names such as Witch's Finger, Devil's Den, and Bottomless Pit.
4. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (Score: 94)
5. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI (Score: 94)
6. Yosemite National Park, CA (Score: 94)
7. Glacier National Park, MT (Score: 93)
8. Arches National Park, UT (Score: 93)
9. Zion National Park, UT (Score: 92)
10. Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, HI (Score: 91)
2013 Winners: Top 10 Amusement Parks
Photograph courtesy of Walt Disney World
1. Disney's Magic Kingdom Park: Orlando, FL (Score: 93)
Bursting with beloved attractions (It's a Small World, Dumbo the Flying Elephant) and a cast of characters so familiar you half expect to run into them at family reunions, Mickey's Orlando realm stands tall atop a crowded category. Distinguishing this park in its category is how personally connected people feel to it. "Makes you feel like a kid," "something everyone should do at least once," and "a very special place," are among the glowing comments we received. Nearly a half-century after Walt imagined it, the Magic Kingdom Park continues to live up to its name.
Photograph courtesy of Disneyland
2. Disneyland: Anaheim, CA (Score: 93)
A whopping six in ten western survey respondents named the "Happiest Place on Earth" a favorite destination. Families give the original Disney park high marks for its range of activities, intergenerational appeal, and attentive customer service. But what really gets them is the pixie dust: "Magical atmosphere," wrote one mom; "Magical no matter what your age," said another. A California mother perhaps summed it up best: "I want to live there, and so does my daughter."
Photograph courtesy of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari
3. Holiday World & Splashin' Safari: Santa Claus, IN (Score: 91)
Midwesterners aren't inclined to boast, but they're justifiably proud of this family-owned and family-oriented park. Frequently cited highlights: four tooth-rattling roller coasters, a range of family rides, holiday-themed attractions for little ones, and a massive water park with a mind-blowing assortment of slides, rides, chutes, and plunges. Families said they love Holiday World's "fun for all ages" vibe and its generous giveaways: there's never any charge for soft drinks, sunscreen, or parking. Who's running this place? St. Nick?
4. Islands of Adventure: Orlando, FL (Score: 91)
5. Disney California Adventure: Anaheim, CA (Score: 90)
6. Cedar Point: Sandusky, OH (Score: 89)
7. Disney's Epcot: Orlando, FL (Score: 89)
8. Disney's Animal Kingdom: Orlando, FL (Score: 89)
9. Hersheypark: Hershey, PA (Score: 88)
10. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon: Orlando, FL (Score: 88)
2013 Winners: Top 10 Family Resorts
Photograph courtesy of Walt Disney World
1. Walt Disney World Resorts Hotels: Orlando, FL (Score: 92)
With more than 15 themed hotels whose whimsical styles range from African safari (Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge) to old New England seaside (Disney's Yacht Club Resort), the World offers something for every taste and budget. Extravagant pools, lush landscaping, and, of course, quick and easy access to the parks make for an unrivaled family experience. In the words of one Alabama mom, "As soon as you see the welcome sign, the magic begins."
Photograph courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village
2. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort: Honolulu, HI (Score: 89)
This 22-acre oceanfront compound sits right on the legendary white sands of Duke Kahanamoku Beach, the widest in Waikiki and a perennial top 10 beach in America. Families love the Hilton's gentle, salt-water lagoon, five swimming pools (including a spectacular 5,000-square-foot activity pool dotted with waterfalls and slides), and surfing instruction. Then there's Waikiki's only outdoor luau, which opens with a conch-shell summons followed by hula lessons. "No stress, no worries," wrote a Washington State family. "The kids had a great time, and so did Mommy and Daddy!"
Photograph courtesy of Loews Coronado Bay
3. Loews Coronado Bay: San Diego, CA (Score: 87)
Unexpected recreational opportunities at swanky, seaside Coronado Bay include an on-site surfing school. Guests not quite ready to hang ten might opt instead for a gondola cruise through the romantic canals of the Coronado cays (complete with serenading gondolier). The 439-room property also offers three outdoor swimming pools and bicycle, paddleboard, and wave-runner rentals. Families singled out as special the direct access to several miles of ocean and bay beaches at adjacent Silver Strand State Park. Cowabunga!
4. Smugglers' Notch Resort: Smugglers' Notch, VT (Score: 87) 5. The Hotel Hershey: Hershey, PA (Score: 87) 6. Kalahari Resort: Sandusky, OH (Score 84) 7. Northstar California Resort: Truckee, CA (Score 84) 8. Great Wolf Lodge: Wisconsin Dells, WI (Score 84) 9. Omni Mount Washington Resort: Bretton Woods, NH (Score 83) & Callaway Gardens Pine Mountain, GA (Score 83) 10. Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa San Antonio, TX (Score 83)
2013 Winners: Regional Favorites: The Midwest
Museums, Zoos, & Aquariums
1. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium: Omaha, NE (Score: 92) 2. Saint Louis Zoo: St. Louis, MO (Score: 92) 3. Museum of Science and Industry: Chicago, IL (Score: 92) 4. The Field Museum: Chicago, IL: (Score: 91) 5. Shedd Aquarium: Chicago, IL (Score: 91) 6. Children's Museum of Indianapolis: Indianapolis, IN (Score: 90) 7. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium: Powell, OH (Score: 90) 8. Brookfield Zoo: Brookfield, IL (Score: 89) 9. Cincinnati Museum Center (Duke Energy Children's Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Cincinnati History Museum, and OMNIMAX Theater): Cincinnati, OH (Score: 88) 10. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo: Cleveland, OH (Score: 87) 11. Center of Science & Industry: Columbus, OH (Score: 87) 12. City Museum: St. Louis, MO (Score: 87) 13. Fort Wayne Children's Zoo: Fort Wayne, IN (Score: 87) 14. Toledo Zoo: Toledo, OH (Score: 86) 15. Discovery World: Milwaukee, WI (Score: 86) 16. Chicago Children's Museum: Chicago, IL (Score: 86) 17. Milwaukee County Zoo: Milwaukee, WI (Score: 86) 18. Saint Louis Science Center: St. Louis, MO (Score: 85) 19. Lincoln Park Zoo: Chicago, IL (Score: 84) 20. Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens: Cincinnati, OH (Score: 84) 21. Indianapolis Zoo: Indianapolis, IN (Score: 83) 22. Science Museum of Minnesota: Saint Paul, MN (Score: 83) 23. The Magic House: St. Louis, MO (Score: 83) 24. World Aquarium: St. Louis, MO (Score: 83) 25. Great Lakes Aquarium: Duluth, MN (Score: 81) 26. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory: Saint Paul, MN (Score: 81) 27. Minnesota Zoo: Apple Valley, MN (Score: 81) 28. Detroit Zoo: Royal Oak, MI (Score: 80) 29. Great Lakes Science Center: Cleveland, OH (Score: 80) 30. Madison Children's Museum: Madison, WI (Score: 78) 31. Minnesota Children's Museum: Saint Paul, MN (Score: 78) 32. Sea Life Aquarium: Kansas City, MO (Score: 75) 33. Greater Cleveland Aquarium: Cleveland, OH (Score: 75) 34. Sea Life Aquarium: Mall of America, MN (Score: 74) 35. Discovery Center Museum: Rockford, IL (Score: 70)
1. Mackinaw City, MI (Score: 89) 2. Duluth, MN (Score: 84) 3. Traverse City, MI (Score: 83) 4. Wisconsin Dells, WI (Score: 83) 5. Branson, MO (Score: 81) 6. Frankenmuth, MI (Score: 79) 7. Custer, SD (Score: 78) 8. Santa Claus, IN (Score: 76) 9. Lake Geneva, WI (Score: 76) 10. Green Bay, WI (Score: 71) 11. Dubuque, IA (Score: 70) 12. Lebanon, OH (Score: 65) 13. Rockford, IL (Score: 62)
1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Keystone, SD (Score: 94) 2. Colonial Michilimackinac: Mackinaw City, MI (Score: 91) 3. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum: Springfield, IL (Score: 89) 4. The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village: Dearborn, MI (Score: 89) 5. Fort Mackinac: Mackinac Island, MI (Score: 89) 6. Gateway Arch: St. Louis, MO (Score: 88) 7. Lincoln Home National Historic Site: Springfield, IL (Score: 86) 8. Soo Locks: Sault Ste. Marie, MI (Score: 85) 9. Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame: Green Bay, WI (Score: 84) 10. Living History Farms: Urbandale, IA (Score: 82) 11. Navy Pier: Chicago, IL (Score: 81) 12. Mall of America: Bloomington, MN (Score: 81) 13. Conner Prairie Interactive History Park: Fishers, IN (Score: 80) 14. Crazy Horse Memorial: Crazy Horse, SD (Score: 78) 15. Harry S. Truman Library & Museum: Independence, MO (Score: 77) 16. Circus World Museum: Baraboo, WI (Score: 75) 17. Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World: Springfield, MO (Score: 75) 18. Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum: Hannibal, MO (Score: 69)
1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI (Score: 94) 2. Black Hills National Forest, SD, WY (Score: 91) 3. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI (Score: 90) 4. Badlands National Park, SD (Score: 90) 5. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN (Score: 88) 6. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND (Score: 88) 7. Garden of the Gods Recreation Area in Shawnee National Forest, IL (Score: 82) 8. Door County Beaches, WI (Score: 81) 9. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, IN (Score: 80) 10. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH (Score: 78) 11. Lake of the Ozarks, Osage Beach, MO (Score: 76) 12. Mark Twain National Forest, MO (Score: 74) 13. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, KS (Score: 55)
1. Kalahari Resort: Sandusky, OH (Score: 84) 2. Great Wolf Lodge: Wisconsin Dells, WI (Score: 84) 3. Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort: Wisconsin Dells, WI (Score: 82) 4. Great Wolf Lodge: Sandusky, OH (Score: 81) 5. French Lick Resort: French Lick & Baden, IN (Score: 79) 6. Kalahari Resort: Wisconsin Dells, WI (Score: 79) 7. Great Wolf Lodge: Traverse City, MI (Score: 79) 8. Tan-Tar-A Resort: Osage Beach, MO (Score: 76)
1. Holiday World & Splashin? Safari: Santa Claus, IN (Score: 91) 2. Cedar Point: Sandusky, OH (Score: 89) 3. Kings Island: Mason, OH (Score: 82) 4. Noah's Ark Waterpark: Wisconsin Dells, WI (Score: 82) 5. Silver Dollar City: Branson, MO (Score: 81) 6. Worlds of Fun: Kansas City, MO (Score: 80) 7. Michigan's Adventure: Muskegon, MI (Score: 79) 8. Six Flags Great America: Chicago, IL (Score: 78) 9. Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park: Wisconsin Dells, WI (Score: 77) 10. Nickelodeon Universe: Mall of America, MN (Score: 77) 11. Six Flags St. Louis: St. Louis, MO (Score: 77) 12. Water Park of America: Mall of America, MN (Score: 73) 13. Bay Beach Amusement Park: Green Bay, WI (Score: 73) 14. Adventureland Park: Altoona, IA (Score: 72)
2013 Winners: Regional Favorites: The Northeast
Museums, Zoos, & Aquariums
1. Museum of Science: Boston, MA (Score: 91) 2. The Franklin Institute: Philadelphia, PA (Score: 90) 3. Philadelphia Zoo: Philadelphia, PA (Score: 88) 4. Museum of Natural History: New York, NY (Score: 88) 5. Bronx Zoo: New York, NY (Score: 88) 6. Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium: Pittsburgh, PA (Score: 87) 7. Carnegie Science Center: Pittsburgh, PA (Score: 87) 8. Please Touch Museum: Philadelphia, PA (Score: 86) 9. New York Aquarium: New York, NY (Score: 85) 10. Boston Children's Museum: Boston, MA (Score: 85) 11. National Museum of Play: Rochester, NY (Score: 85) 12. Children's Museum: Pittsburgh, PA (Score: 84) 13. Mystic Aquarium: Mystic, CT (Score: 84) 14. Connecticut Science Center: Hartford, CT (Score: 84) 15. New England Aquarium: Boston, MA (Score: 83) 16. Roger Williams Park Zoo: Providence, RI (Score: 83) 17. Children's Museum of Manhattan: New York, NY (Score: 82) 18. Adventure Aquarium: Camden, NJ (Score: 82) 19. Liberty Science Center: Jersey City, NJ (Score: 82) 20. ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center/Leahy Center for Lake Champlain: Burlington, VT (Score: 77) 21. Montshire Museum of Science: Norwich, VT (Score: 77) 22. Ecotarium: Worcester, MA (Score: 67)
1. Wildwood and Cape May, NJ (Score: 84) 2. Bar Harbor, ME (Score: 83) 3. Newport, RI (Score: 82) 4. Portland, ME (Score: 82) 5. Kennebunkport, ME (Score: 81) 6. Stowe, VT (Score: 81) 7. Portsmouth, NH (Score: 81) 8. Lake Placid, NY (Score: 80) 9. Burlington, VT (Score: 78) 10. Lancaster, PA (Score: 78) 11. Lake George, NY (Score: 77)
1. Statue of Liberty National Monument: New York, NY (Score: 91) 2. Niagara Falls State Park: Niagara Falls, NY (Score: 91) 3. 9/11 Memorial: New York, NY (Score: 88) 4. USS Constitution: Boston, MA (Score: 86) 5. Plimoth Plantation: Plymouth, MA (Score: 86) 6. Shelburne Museum: Shelburne, VT (Score: 86) 7. Freedom Trail: Boston, MA (Score: 84) 8. Ellis Island Immigration Museum: Ellis Island, NY (Score: 84) 9. Independence Hall: Philadelphia, PA (Score: 84) 10. Empire State Building: New York, NY (Score: 84) 11. Lexington and Concord Historic Sites: MA (Score: 83) 12. Mystic Seaport: Mystic, CT (Score: 82) 13. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum: Boston, MA (Score: 82) 14. Baseball Hall of Fame: Cooperstown, NY (Score: 81) 15. United Nations Visitors Centre: New York, NY (Score: 81) 16. Witch House: Salem, MA (Score: 81) 17. Newport Mansions: Newport, RI (Score: 81) 18. Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market: Boston, MA (Score: 80) 19. Old Sturbridge Village: Sturbridge, MA (Score: 80) 20. Howe Caverns: Howes Cave, NY 80 22. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Tours: Waterbury, VT (Score: 80) 23. The Crayola Experience: Easton, PA (Score: 79) 24. The House of Seven Gables: Salem, MA (Score: 79) 25. U.S. Military Academy/West Point Museum: West Point, NY (Score: 79) 26. Strawbery Banke Museum: Portsmouth, NH (Score: 77)
1. Acadia National Park, ME (Score: 95) 2. Cape Cod National Seashore, MA (Score: 90) 3. Southern Maine Coast, ME (Score: 90) 4. White Mountain National Forest, NH (Score: 89) 5. Green Mountain National Forest, VT (Score: 89) 6. Nantucket, MA (Score: 88) 7. Adirondack Park, NY (Score: 87) 8. Martha's Vineyard, MA (Score: 84) 9. Allegheny National Forest, PA (Score: 82) 10. Bushkill Falls, PA (Score: 81) 11. Gateway National Recreation Area, NY, NJ (Score: 79) 12. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, NJ, PA (Score: 77) 13. Block Island, RI (Score: 76)
1. Smugglers? Notch Resort: Smugglers? Notch, VT (Score: 87) 2. The Hotel Hershey: Hershey, PA (Score: 87) 3. Omni Mount Washington Resort: Bretton Woods, NH (Score: 83) 4. Killington Ski Resort: Killington, VT (Score: 83) 5. Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park: Queensbury, NY (Score: 82) 6. Waterville Valley Resort: Waterville Valley, NH (Score: 81) 7. Seven Springs Mountain Resort: Seven Springs PA (Score: 78)
1. Hersheypark: Hershey, PA (Score: 88) 2. Santa's Village: Jefferson, NH (Score: 86) 3. Knoebels Amusement Resort: Elysburg, PA (Score: 86) 4. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor: Jackson, NJ (Score: 85) 5. Story Land: Glen, NH (Score: 85) 6. Dornery Park: Allentown, PA (Score: 83) 7. Six Flags Great Adventure & Wild Safari: Jackson, NJ (Score: 81) 8. Sesame Place: Langhorne, PA (Score: 81) 9. Kennywood: West Mifflin, PA (Score: 80) 10. The Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom: Lake George, NY (Score: 76) 11. Six Flags New England: Agawam, MA (Score: 75) 12. Canobie Lake Park: Salem, NH (Score: 75) 13. Lake Compounce Family Theme Park: Bristol, CT (Score: 74) 14. Darien Lake Theme Park: Darien, NY (Score: 70)
2013 Winners: Regional Favorites: The South
Museums, Zoos, & Aquariums
1. Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History: Washington, DC (Score: 92) 2. Smithsonian's National Museum of American History: Washington, DC (Score: 91) 3. Tennessee Aquarium: Chattanooga, TN (Score: 91) 4. Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum: Washington, DC (Score: 90) 5. Fort Worth Zoo: Fort Worth, TX (Score: 89) 6. SeaWorld Orlando: Orlando, FL (Score: 89) 7. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden: Columbia, SC (Score: 89) 8. SeaWorld San Antonio: San Antonio, TX (Score: 88) 9. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: Kennedy Space Center, FL (Score: 88) 10. North Carolina Zoo: Asheboro, NC (Score: 87) 11. U.S. Space & Rocket Center: Huntsville, AL (Score: 87) 12. Smithsonian's National Zoological Park: Washington, DC (Score: 87) 13. National Aquarium: Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC (Score: 87) 14. Houston Space Center: Houston, TX (Score: 87) 15. Audubon Nature Institute: New Orleans, LA (Score: 87) 16. Museum of Life and Science: Durham, NC (Score: 86) 17. Discovery Place: Charlotte, NC (Score: 85) 18. Oklahoma City Zoo: Oklahoma City, OK (Score: 84) 19. Port Discovery Children?s Museum: Baltimore, MD (Score: 84) 20. The World of Coca-Cola: Atlanta, GA (Score: 84) 21. Newport Aquarium: Newport, KY (Score: 82) 22. San Antonio Zoo: San Antonio, TX (Score: 82) 23. Battleship Memorial Park: Mobile, AL (Score: 82) 24. Children?s Museum of Houston: Houston, TX (Score: 81) 25. National Children's Museum: National Harbor, MD (Score: 81) 26. Zoo Atlanta: Atlanta, GA (Score: 80) 27. Louisville Zoo: Louisville, KY (Score: 77)
1. Gulf Shores, AL (Score: 85) 2. St. Augustine, FL (Score: 85) 3. Myrtle Beach, SC (Score: 83) 4. Wilmington, NC (Score: 83) 5. Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN (Score: 83) 6. Asheville, NC (Score: 82) 7. Ocean City, MD (Score: 82) 8. Virginia Beach, VA (Score: 81) 9. Hilton Head Island, SC (Score: 80) 10. Huntsville, AL (Score: 78) 11. Annapolis, MD (Score: 77) 12. Rehoboth Beach, DE (Score: 74) 13. Franklin, TN (Score: 69) 14. Baton Rouge, LA (Score: 63)
1. The White House: Washington, DC (Score: 89) 2. George Washington?s Mount Vernon: Mount Vernon, VA (Score: 89) 3. United States Capitol: Washington, DC (Score: 87) 4. Colonial Williamsburg: Williamsburg, VA (Score: 87) 5. Jamestown Settlement: Williamsburg, VA (Score: 87) 6. Global Wildlife Center: Folsom, LA (Score: 85) 7. Harpers Ferry: Harpers Ferry, WV (Score: 84) 8. Stone Mountain Park: Stone Mountain, GA (Score: 84) 9. Thomas Jefferson?s Monticello: Charlottesville, VA (Score: 84) 10.San Antonio River Walk: San Antonio, TX (Score: 83) 11. Kentucky Horse Park: Lexington, KY (Score: 83) 12. Battleship USS North Carolina: Wilmington, NC (Score: 80) 13. The Alamo: San Antonio, TX (Score: 79) 14. Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area: Golden Pond, KY (Score: 77) 15. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine: MD (Score: 77) 16. United States Naval Academy: Annapolis, MD (Score: 75) 17. Old Salem Museums and Gardens: Winston-Salem, NC (Score: 71)
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN, NC (Score: 90) 2. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC (Score: 88) 3. Everglades National Park, FL (Score: 87) 4. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY (Score: 87) 5. Big Bend National Park, TX (Score: 85) 6. Shenandoah National Park, VA (Score: 85) 7. Assateague Island National Seashore, MD, VA (Score: 84) 8. Padre Island National Seashore, TX (Score: 83) 9. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, GA (Score: 73)
1. Walt Disney World Resorts Hotels: Lake Buena Vista/Orlando, FL (Score: 92) 2. Callaway Gardens: Pine Mountain, GA (Score: 83) 3. Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa: San Antonio, TX (Score: 83) 4. Nickelodeon Suites Resort: Orlando, FL (Score: 78)
1. Disney's Magic Kingdom Park: Orlando, FL (Score: 93) 2. Islands of Adventure: Orlando, FL (Score: 91) 3. Disney's EPCOT: Orlando, FL (Score: 89) 4. Disney's Animal Kingdom: Orlando, FL (Score: 89) 5. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon: Orlando, FL (Score: 88) 6. Disney's Hollywood Studios: Orlando, FL (Score: 88) 7. Busch Gardens: Williamsburg, VA (Score: 88) 8. Universal Studios: Orlando, FL (Score: 87) 9. Dollywood & Dollywood's Splash Country: Pigeon Forge, TN (Score: 84) 10. Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park: Orlando, FL (Score: 84) 11. Water Country USA: Williamsburg, VA (Score: 84) 12. Carowinds: Charlotte, NC (Score: 84) 13. Busch Gardens: Tampa, FL (Score: 83) 14. Schlitterbahn Waterpark: New Braunfels, TX (Score: 83) 15. Aquatica: Orlando, FL (Score: 83) 16. Legoland Florida: Winter Haven, FL (Score: 83) 17. Six Flags Fiesta Texas: San Antonio, TX (Score: 80) 18. Six Flags Over Texas: Arlington, TX (Score: 75) 19. Kings Dominion: Doswell, VA (Score: 75) 20. Six Flags Over Georgia: Austell, GA (Score: 74) 21. Six Flags White Water: Marietta, GA (Score: 72) 22. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor: Arlington, TX (Score: 69) 23. Wild Adventures Theme Park: Valdosta, GA (Score: 67) 24. Frontier City: Oklahoma City, OK (Score: 65)
2013 Winners: Regional Favorites: The West
Museums, Zoos, & Aquariums
1. Steinhart Aquarium: San Francisco, CA (Score: 91) 2. San Diego Zoo: San Diego, CA (Score: 90) 3. Monterey Bay Aquarium: Monterey, CA (Score: 90) 4. SeaWorld San Diego: San Diego, CA (Score: 90) 5. Wildlife Safari: Winston, OR (Score: 89) 6. OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science & Industry) : Portland, OR (Score: 89) 7. San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Escondido, CA (Score: 88) 8. Exploratorium: San Francisco, CA (Score: 87) 9. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: Tucson, AZ (Score: 87) 10. Pacific Science Center: Seattle, WA (Score: 87) 11. California Science Center: Los Angeles, CA (Score: 86) 12. Woodland Park Zoo: Seattle, WA (Score: 86) 13. San Francisco Zoo: San Francisco, CA (Score: 84) 14. Museum of Flight: Seattle, WA (Score: 84) 15. Oregon Coast Aquarium: Newport, OR (Score: 83) 16. High Desert Museum: Bend, OR (Score: 83) 17. Denver Zoo: Denver, CO (Score: 83) 18. Aquarium of the Pacific: Long Beach, CA (Score: 82) 19. Oregon Zoo: Portland, OR (Score: 82) 20. Seattle Aquarium: Seattle, WA (Score: 82) 21. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium: Tacoma, WA (Score: 82) 22. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo: Colorado Springs, CO (Score: 81) 23. San Diego Air & Space Museum: San Diego, CA (Score: 81) 24. Seattle Children's Museum: Seattle, WA (Score: 81) 25. Santa Barbara Zoo: Santa Barbara, CA (Score: 80) 26. California State Railroad Museum: Sacramento, CA (Score: 80) 27. Phoenix Zoo: Phoenix, AZ (Score: 80) 28. Portland Children's Museum: Portland, OR (Score: 80) 29. Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens: Los Angeles, CA (Score: 78) 30. Children's Museum of Denver: Denver, CO (Score: 77) 31. Hatfield Marine Science Center: Newport, OR (Score: 75) 32. EMP Museum: Seattle, WA (Score: 70)
1. Monterey, CA (Score: 88) 2. Lake Tahoe Region, CA, NV (Score: 87) 3. Leavenworth, WA (Score: 83) 4. Estes Park, CO (Score: 81) 5. Beaver Creek, CO (Score: 79) 6. Telluride, CO (Score: 78) 7. Santa Fe, NM (Score: 78) 8. Santa Monica, CA (Score: 78) 9. Jackson Hole, WY (Score: 77) 10. Taos, NM (Score: 77) 11. Park City, UT (Score: 77) 12. Tombstone, AZ (Score: 75) 13. Sisters, OR (Score: 73) 14. Port Townsend, WA (Score: 73) 15. La Conner, WA (Score: 68) 16. Carson City, NV (Score: 66)
1. Pearl Harbor/USS Arizona Memorial: Honolulu, HI (Score: 93) 2. Golden Gate Bridge: San Francisco, CA (Score: 87) 3. Alcatraz Island: San Francisco, CA (Score: 84) 4. Cable Cars: San Francisco, CA (Score: 84) 5. Space Needle: Seattle, WA (Score: 83) 6. Tillamook Cheese Factory: Tillamook, OR (Score: 83) 7. Fisherman's Wharf: San Francisco, CA (Score: 83) 8. 'Iolani Palace: Honolulu, HI (Score: 83) 9. Fort Clatsop: Astoria, OR (Score: 81) 10. Buffalo Bill Historical Center: Cody, WY (Score: 80) 11. Hearst Castle: San Simeon, CA (Score: 80) 12. Cascade Locks/Bonneville Lock and Dam: OR (Score: 79) 13. Mission San Juan Capistrano: San Juan Capistrano, CA (Score: 78) 14. Grand Coulee Dam: WA (Score: 77) 15. United States Air Force Academy: Colorado Springs, CO (Score: 75) 16. Sutter's Fort State Historic Park: Sacramento, CA 75 17. Hoover Dam: AZ, NV (Score: 74) 18. Hiram M. Chittenden Locks: Seattle, WA (Score: 73) 19. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site: OR, WA (Score: 70) 20. Fort Nisqually: Tacoma, WA (Score: 64)
1. Yellowstone National Park, WY, MT, ID (Score: 97) 2. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM (Score: 94) 3. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ (Score: 94) 4. Yosemite National Park, CA (Score: 94) 5. Glacier National Park, MT (Score: 93) 6. Arches National Park, UT (Score: 93) 7. Zion National Park, UT (Score: 92) 8. Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, HI (Score: 91) 9. Mount Rainier National Park, WA (Score: 91) 10. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO (Score: 91) 11. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT (Score: 90) 12. Grand Teton National Park, WY (Score: 90) 13. Haleakal? National Park, HI (Score: 90) 14. San Juan Islands, WA (Score: 89) 15. Sequoia National Park, CA (Score: 89) 16. Redwood National Park, CA (Score: 88) 17. Olympic National Park, WA (Score: 86) 18. Catalina Island, CA (Score: 85) 19. Golden Gate National Recreation Area, CA (Score: 85) 20. Point Reyes National Seashore, CA (Score: 81) 21. Joshua Tree National Park, CA (Score: 77)
1. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort: Honolulu, HI (Score: 89) 2. Loews Coronado Bay: San Diego, CA (Score: 87) 3. Northstar California Resort: Truckee, CA (Score: 84) 4. Sunriver Resort: OR (Score: 82) 5. Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort: Phoenix, AZ (Score: 79) 6. Arizona Grand Resort & Spa: Phoenix, AZ (Score: 75) 7. Estes Park Center: Estes Park, CO (Score: 73) 8. Keystone Resort: Keystone, CO (Score: 71)
1. Disneyland: Anaheim, CA (Score: 93) 2. Disney California Adventure: Anaheim, CA (Score: 90) 3. Universal Studios Hollywood: Universal City, CA (Score: 81) 4. Knott's Berry Farm: Buena Park, CA (Score: 79) 5. Legoland California: Carlsbad, CA (Score: 78) 6. Six Flags Magic Mountain: Valencia, CA (Score: 76) 7. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom: Vallejo, CA (Score: 75) 8. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor: Valencia, CA (Score: 74) 9. Water World: Federal Heights, CO (Score: 73) 10. Lagoon: Farmington, UT (Score: 68) 11. Enchanted Forest: Turner, OR (Score: 68) 12. Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park: Denver, CO (Score: 63)
Originally published in the April 2013 issue of FamilyFun