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
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.
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."
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)