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Help me pick a US vacation destination in late June!

Help me pick a US vacation destination in late June!

Old Jan 13th, 2022, 09:33 AM
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Help me pick a US vacation destination in late June!

Hi there - I have been a long time lurker on this message board ( for maybe 20 years now! ) and always find such helpful advice here.
I am looking to plan a vacation for my family somewhere in the US for the last week in June and I feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities!
I also know I am pretty late to planning for some locations.

We live near Boston and can travel for about 7-8 days
We are a family of 5 and our kids are 15, 12, and 7.

We like to do things outdoors although my 12 yo complains if hikes are *too* strenuous. We like to visit interesting/unique museums/tours together because this is something that we all find interesting and any age can do it!
All three of my kids are into art. My husband and oldest son enjoy history. Our youngest just learned to ride a bike and swim last summer. He could potentially do activities that include biking/swimming now but nothing too challenging.
My kids would enjoy activities such as like caves/ zip lining/ seeing cool wildlife/ snorkeling / hot springs/ trying surfing. My oldest REALLY wants to sled down sand dunes but this is certainly not a requirement!
Honestly, my kids could walk over a cool rope bridge and then talk about it for a month - they are fairly easily entertained.

We like unique experiences and things that are off the beaten path. I prefer to do something that NOT everyone else is doing at that time. ie, we went to acadia two years ago JUST before busy season and it was fantastic because it wasn't too crowded yet.
Our vacation last year was an RV trip to Maine so I prefer to a different state this year. Originally, I was considering either northern or southern CA but I think I have decided one week is just not enough time to fly that far (?)

We are open to flying or driving but I think 3-4 hours in the car is our max for each day so this probably limits us in terms of how far we can go in a week if we choose to drive.
We are not crazy foodies so this part is not super important to us. My husband and son have allergies so we tend to play it safe when it comes to cuisine on vacation.

I would love to hear about any locations that pop into your head that might suit us. THANK YOU in advance for your help!

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Old Jan 13th, 2022, 10:11 AM
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Santa Fe and Taos. I think the two tick all of your boxes except surfing... although a week isn't much time for everything. Art, museums, history of all sorts, lots of outdoor activities, nice excursions in the area. The drive from/to Albuquerque has some interesting stops/detours.

https://travel.usnews.com/Santa_Fe_NM/Things_To_Do/

Summer Recreation ? The Village of Taos Ski Valley
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Old Jan 13th, 2022, 11:36 AM
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The place that pops into my mind is indeed across the country, but has the advantage of many activities being in a quite compact area, close to the arrival airport, and the variety of activities is nothing short of stupendous.

Fly from Boston to Portland, Oregon (nonstops on Alaska Airlines, one-stops on everybody else.) Within an hour of the airport you've got the city (terrific destination on its own) but to the east of the airport (in a few minutes) you're in the Columbia River Gorge with its waterfalls, vista points, easy-to-hard hikes, and all that. From a base in Hood River (roughly an hour east of the airport) you can visit iconic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, for summer skiing, ziplining, hiking, or just to ride the "Magic Mile" chairlift up to the permanent icefields on the side of the big volcano. You can explore the "fruit loop" in the gorgeous Hood River Valley along the way.

At White Salmon, Washington, across the Columbia from Hood River, there are white water rafting trips suitable for all ages, or you can watch the windsurfers on the Columbia (it's the self-declared US capital of windsurfing.) There are lakes to be visited, hikes into the Mount Adams wilderness if you fancy it or visit the Bonneville Dam fish hatchery and say hello to Herman the Sturgeon (a huge and ancient fish) through underwater windows (and feed the baby trout - 25c for a bag of food.)

45 minutes east of Hood River (where the landscape has changed from forest and waterfalls to sagebrush and red rocks) is the eclectic Maryhill Museum of Art with its extraordinary collections of European and American arts, Native American arts exhibits and the amazing Theatre de la Mode from postwar Paris. Nearby is weird copy of Stonehenge, sitting on the clifftops above the great river.

Should you want to go on a longer excursion, you can be at the Pacific coast in a couple of hours, watching the waves crash against the rocks at Cape Disappointment at the awesome mouth of the Columbia, or eat fresh seafood in Astoria or Cannon Beach.

All of these attractions (and many more) are all within a very short distance of Portland and its airport, so while the flying might take longer from the east coast, your time on the ground will be spent very efficiently because things are so close together. Google the places on this map to start: https://goo.gl/maps/csE6ijgK1XRJtar68

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Old Jan 13th, 2022, 12:12 PM
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If you come to the west coast, your kids can sand board or sled at Sandmasters Park in the Florence Oregon area. You can also do trail rides on the beach at C&M stables or go Dune Buggy riding at Sandland. I have done the dune buggy riding and thought it was a blast.
So much to choose from.
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Old Jan 13th, 2022, 04:38 PM
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Cody, Wyoming might fit the bill. It has the the world-renowned Buffalo Bill Center of the West with the Plains Indians Museum. There is a rodeo every night in the summer and I think they might still have a drive-in theater. Yellowstone National Park is about 1.5 hours west. There the Lamar Valley has wolves feeding on bison and elk at sunrise. Then there is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone with its massive waterfall. Plenty of outdoor opportunities in the region including kayaking, zip-lining, hiking and biking.
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Old Jan 13th, 2022, 07:49 PM
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Have you been to Virginia? Virginia has Shenandoah National Park for hiking, horseback riding, outdoor activities. Luray Caverns are in Shenandoah. For history, Virginia has the Civil War battlegrounds, Monticello, (Thomas Jefferson's home, in Charlottesville), Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown among others. If you have the time, you could visit DC. Does your family like amusement parks? There is Busch Gardens Williamsburg and King's Dominion, and water parks. If you want some beach time, there is Virginia Beach and Chincoteague (one of our favorite vacation spots, but we haven't been in 20 years.) When we visited Chincoteague, it was not built up or very commercialized, but that may have changed since we were last there.
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Old Jan 14th, 2022, 04:11 PM
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If you're open to flying, fly into Rapid City SD to visit the Black Hills/SD Badlands for a week. Stay in either Hill City, Custer or Keystone so that you can easily take day trips back and forth from your lodging. These are small towns with shops, restaurants, lodging, small museums, etc. Lots to do there in the general area within easy day drives.

Things to do In the Black Hills:
1. Custer State Park - drive wildlife loop where you'll see bison, antelope, sheep, wild horses, etc. in addition to scenic drives such as the Needles Hwy & Iron Mt. Road

2. Swim, hike around or rent small personal paddle boats on the small lakes: rent a pontoon for the day on the larger lakes
3. Rent ATV's, horseback ride or hike many different trails
4. Take a Bison Jeep Tour - Have a chuck wagon meal - visit Mammoth (dinosaur) Dig Site - visit Jewel Cave Nat'l Park, Wind Cave or one of many other caves, underground waterfalls, etc.
5. Visit Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse National Monuments (Native American museum also on site)
6. Visit Reptile Gardens, Dinosaur museums, Bear Country Park, assorted attractions
7. Visit SD Badlands (about 1 hr East) , including historical Minuteman Missile Base & Wall Drug (very small town with tiny main street stores)
8. Leave around 8:00 AM, drive to Devil's Tower (WY) - be back to base for evening meal (goes thru Deadwood SD - stop for historical museum, cemetery where Calamity Jane & Buffalo Bill are buried)
9. Take old historical train from Hill City to Keystone & back - hot air balloon ride in Custer - helicopter rides to Mt. Rushmore
10. Stay in one of many cabins/lodges within Custer Park - Sit around campfires at night - eat bison or elk burgers (local food/very lean) - make "gourmet s'mores" with fudge from local shops!
11. Browse the many shops in the area for Western or Native art - or just unique items

This area is usually a lot less congested than Yellowstone in the Summer, so the easy drives are loops with lots of areas to pull off & have fun; even if it happens to rain, there's always a cave or something to experience!

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Old Jan 15th, 2022, 05:06 AM
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Wow, thank you all so much for the thoughtful responses. It looks like I have some homework to do researching these places!! I will take a vote with my family. I hadn't thought of SD but I went as a kid and remember it so well. THANK YOU ALL!! I may be back with more questions
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Old Jan 15th, 2022, 08:37 AM
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Well, I'll mention Denver. LOts to do in the city itself--the art museum has a WONDERFUL native American exhibit of a number of western tribes and pottery. Museum of Natural History and the Zoo. And around Denver are some great dinosaur exhibits (Morrison just on the southern bordr). Then there is CO Springs and the AirForce Academy and just outside CO Springs is Wooklands with an excellent small dinosaur/fossil museum/ laboratory.
Then go into the mountains for zip lining, etc. Hot Springs. Horseback riding would be available. Fly fishing!!
Denver is easy to fly in and out of. The areas in the mountains are all within a 3 hour drive or so.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2022, 01:59 AM
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Denver weather would be nice in June and the mountain areas do fit your bill for outdoor activities, caves etc.. Used to live there but now I live in San Diego. You could just come to San Diego for a week and not visit anywhere else in Socal and it's a good amount of time. We booked my best friends 9 year old multiple surf lessons at La Jolla Shores beach and he loved it every time, lots of other great beaches/boogie boarding, hiking, Balboa park has lots of museums. There are Sand Dunes here but maybe 2.5 hours away from SD.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2022, 10:40 AM
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Living in Seattle of course I thought of the NW and west coast places first, but it seems like a lot of effort and expense for the length of time. As retirees we have a made a couple of cross country driving trips and some of the nicest places were pretty under the radar. Some areas that I think could be fun driving trips from the Boston area might be:

They area around Falling Water House in Mil Creek PA. The house is fantastic and the countryside around there is really nice for outdoor walks, camping etc. and the driving distance is around 9 hours, so not too bad. You could make stops in Amish country and even Gettysburg on the way there or back

https://fallingwater.org/

Further away but a great fit for the sand dunes desire is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. It is about a 14 hour drive from the Boston area and you could make a stop in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Museum which is fun! And the building is designed by I.M. Pei and is extraordinary. You can only sled at Sleeping Bear in the winter however, but it is really gorgeous there and you have the benefit of being near water.

https://www.rockhall.com/
https://www.nps.gov/slbe/index.htm

Another fantastic trip where you can sand surf is at Jockey Jockey's Ridge State Park on the coast of NC just over 11 hours from Boston. That whole drive would be lovely along the outer banks and apparently it is the East coast tallest dune.

https://friendsofjockeysridge.org/faqs/

We also loved driving through West VA. I don't have particular specific suggestions there-we just thought eh geography and vistas were really beautiful.

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Old Jan 22nd, 2022, 03:55 PM
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We have flown from CT to Albuquerque several time for the kind of trip you might like. If you get to ABQ by noon, you could head north to Bloomfield NM for the first night (a good Best Western there) then head up to Mesa Verde for a couple of nights. Then head south to Santa Fe (great museums, good art, lots of history). While in the SF area, Perhaps go to Taos for a tour of the Pueblo and/or head over to Bandelier for more Native American history (the kids will love climbing into the dwellings). Head back towards Albuquerque on the state road that goes by your the funky artists cottages, There are museums in Albuquerque as well as a NP site with rock art done by early Native Americans.





Rock art in Bandelier

Bandelier

Going to a dwelling
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