We all have one. A list of things we want to do in the New Year. Some call them resolutions, others a wish list or even bucket list. Almost everyone will have a special spot they hope to travel to. Just in case you need a little extra help narrowing down your choices this year, here are a few of our favorite destinations, and a few from our own bucket lists to get you inspired to go, go, go!
Gaze up at the Northern Lights in Iceland
When scientist are predicting that the Northern Lights will be at their best in over a decade, you know it’s an event you won’t want to miss. From now until early April you can catch this natural phenomenon in Iceland as well as other northern countries and even Alaska. There are plenty of easy package deals from Iceland Air and other travel outlets that can get you out exploring the country. Just imagine your child’s face as they see “flashlights” lighting up the night sky. Stay tuned for more as my family knocks this one off our bucket list in March 2014!
People watching and pastries in Paris
Park the stroller and pull up a chair at one of the City of Light’s famous cafes. Sip a glass of wine as you watch Parisians go about their day, making a stunning fashion statement as they stroll past. Order up a coffee with a few handcrafted macaroons as you reflect on this amazing adventure you are on in one of the most beloved cities in the world. You may just find yourself saying “oh la la!”
Try a little flamenco in Spain
Andalusia, the southern region of Spain, houses Flamenco dance halls, street performers and classes that can get you into the action. While parents will want to sneak out for a late night performance at a café cantante, kids don’t have to be left out. Outfit your little dancers or better yet, head to Sevilla during La Bienal Flamenco Festival, celebrated in April each year, where they can get up close and personal with flamenco enthusiast from across the globe. Any time of year keep an eye out for spontaneous street performances. Hand your budding dancer a few Euros to show their appreciation for the dance and maybe even try out a few steps.
Wave hello to Big Ben in London
The famous clock tower with Big Ben housed inside is an iconic feature of the London skyline. Our kids are exposed to it early through movies (Cars 2 anyone?), books and games. Parents get a little giddy as they remember seeing Mary Poppins for the first time in their youth. Although Big Ben is incredible, there is so much more you can pack into your London vacation with your kids. From free museums to tasty meat pies, incredible shopping and a ride on the Tube, you just can’t go wrong in England’s capital city.
Big five in Africa
Why take your kids to the zoo to see lions behind bars when you can go searching for them in the wild? South African, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Namibia are just a few of the countries that offer safari adventures for families. Stay at an eco-lodge, camp out under the stars, and let your guide lead the way to lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinoceros. If you aren’t quite ready to hit the bush, Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor may be the perfect stop. This is no ordinary 12-acre private estate. Oh no, guests can expect to dine with these gentle giants when they pop in for breakfast with you…literally.
Walk along the Great Wall of China
There are very few UNESCO World Heritage sights as long as the Great Wall of China, and I’m here to tell you that the journey is worth it. I watched my oldest practice his walking, just weeks after his first steps, on the Great Wall. No matter how old your child is you will remember every step and have amazing stories to share with them as they get older. Beijing is the perfect spot to set up camp and there are plenty of outfitters ready to take you to several different sections of the Great Wall for the day or even overnight. When it’s that easy you can’t afford to wait!
Celebrate Thailand’s Lantern festival
Every little girl (and boy) who has seen Disney’s Tangled dreams about lanterns floating around the night sky. What they may not know is that there is a place that does it every year. At the top of our family travel list this year is the Lanna Yi Peng festival held in Thailand every November. The celebration is meant as a time to obtain Buddist merit. Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom, holds the most elaborate festival. Hundreds of expats make Chiang Mai their home, making this ancient city an easy spot to take in your first floating lantern experience, and yes, you can launch your own lantern into the sky along with the locals.
Hang ten in Costa Rica
Our very own savvy sassy commander-in-chief Andrea likes to call the waters off Costa Rica home and many surfers would agree that this is the place to be. Get your feet wet with a lesson or head down with your own board this winter to hang ten, yell “kowabunga” and introduce your kids to the art of one of the coolest watersports around. Even if you aren’t up for surfing there is more than enough to keep you entertained in this Central American country. Ziplining, snorkeling and eating some fab food are just a few of the things this lush country has in store for visitors.
Gaze up at the Iguazu Falls in Argentina
Think Argentina is all tango and beef steaks? Think again. This South American nation has more natural wonders than you can count, and the Iguazu Falls should be at the top of your list. Brazil and Argentina share the falls, as it is on the border of their two countries.. If you are based in Buenos Aires you can catch a nonstop flight up to Iguazu International Airport Krause. Several tour operators out of Buenos Aires can make your trip a no-brainer, or you can go to Puerto Iguazu, the closest town on the Argentinian side of the falls, and head out from there. Either way you are sure to give your family the thrill of a lifetime at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Walk with the Hobbits in New Zealand
Tolkien geeks rejoice! You can head down to Matamata, New Zealand to gaze upon Peter Jackson’s Hobbiton. Your kids will get a kick out of the pint-sized hobbit holes. They may even think this was a village built just for them. But this isn’t the only spot you can get a glimpse of the Tolkien world Jackson recreated in his homeland. With filming in over 150 locations, you will have your choice of adventures to satisfy the Hobbit geek in your whole clan. Hike, kayak or even take a helicopter tour over the best locations from the film. No matter what route you take you are bound to stumble across a bit of Middle Earth.
Scuba in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
Babies may have to sit this one out, but mom, dad and older siblings can throw on their scuba gear to see one of the best and largest underwater wonders of the world. Set up camp in Cairns, a sleek, modern city that will give you access to the Reef, Rainforest and Outback. Tour art galleries, gardens, and a bit of boutique shopping as you let your body adjust to the time change, and then head out for why you really came here… to see this natural wonder of the world! Book with a boat tour, there are plenty to choose from. For those a bit wary of the open seas, look into a helicopter tour that can give you a very different perspective of the reefs.
Ski the slopes of Keystone, CO
When it comes to skiing in Colorado you really can’t go wrong. Keystone’s Kidtopia program allows kids to ski free and offers up fun activities to keep the whole family entertained. Mom and Dad can drop the kids at ski school while they swish down the slope and their little ones get a taste for winter sports. Of course no ski vacation would be complete without a little après ski. Grab a hot chocolate, glass of wine or a beer — then dig into fondue, specialty chocolates or just some local BBQ as you end your wintery day on the mountain.
Discover America’s past in Philadelphia, PA
Washington, D.C. gets all the credit when it comes to U.S. history, but don’t forget it all started in Philadelphia with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Let history come alive for your family as you tour Independence Hall, get a peek at the Liberty Bell, explore Betsy Ross’s house and Ben Franklin’s workshop. Stroll past the houses of Elfreth’s Alley, the first residential street in the city and still occupied by residents to this day. Plan a free gallery tour on First Friday, and end your artistic adventure at Franklin Fountain, an old-fashion soda shop that will definitely have your kids sugared up for the night.
Get a glimpse of Paris in Montreal, Canada
Not everyone can hop a plane to Paris, but you can drive (or fly) up to Montreal in the Canadian province of Quebec. Tour the Notre-Dame Basicilca of Montreal and the Botanical Garden. Devour crepes, cheese, pastries and poutine. Walk over to the Old Port of Montreal on the banks of the St. Lawrence River for loads of family-friendly fun. Ice skate in the winter or hit the beach in the summer. Cirque du Soleil fans be sure to catch a performance in the city the creative team got their start. It is sure to have your kids begging for an encore.
Wherever your wanderlust takes you, whether near or far, we hope you have a merry time with your family, create incredible memories and see something that makes you say “wow” in the new year.