A recent push from international destinations like Chiang Mai, Thailand, countries across South America and Iceland suggests that exotic travel is only possible when traveling afar. Yet, the United States is home to its own exotic destinations and experiences without need for passports or long, expensive flights around the world.
As travel writer, Deb Thompson, explains,
“in my years of family travel, I’ve discovered U.S. destinations that are both fascinating and affordable. They have stretched my preconceived notions of what it means to be an American and have enriched my life — and my children’s — no passport required.”
If exotic travel is on your list, but the price of a plane ticket halfway across the world is not, then this is the travel list for you.
US Family Vacation Experiences
Discover the red rock formations and petroglyphs around Zion National Park, Utah. Discover otherworldly rock formations and arches at Kolob Canyons near Cedar City. Nearby at Parowan Gap, see the petroglyphs carved into the rock by the Native American tribes that made this area home more than 1,000 years ago. Those who love rugged outdoor hiking and history will certainly enjoy this unique landscape and treasure photos for a lifetime. Admission is only $15 and is good for one week. To learn more, click here.
Live in a houseboat. House boating offers everything a family could want in a unique, boating experience. Rent a boat for a few days or the whole week (prices start around $2500 for a weeklong vacation) and escape everyday land life to enjoy the fun living on the water has to offer. To book a houseboat vacation throughout the US, visit Houseboating online.
Mush a dog sled. Dog sledding might be considered the sport of Alaska, Iceland and Northern Canada, but many places in the continental U.S. also offer the sport. At Triple Creek Kennels in Munising, Michigan, guests can enjoy a 2-hour tour or 2-day trek to learn all about mushing, including commands, braking, steering and dog care. The kids will love the chance to interact with the dogs and race across the snow. Experiences begin around $150/person.
Experience Native American culture. Festivals across the country and museums dedicated to Native American history provide the opportunity to discover Native American culture. At the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico each April, guests immerse themselves in the song, dance, tradition and food of Native Americans. Tickets begin at $19.50 and can be purchased at the Gathering of Nations website.
Dig for dinos in the Badlands of South Dakota. What could be more exciting than uncovering dinosaur bones that you dig from the earth yourself? Young paleontologists will thrill at the experience of finding bones suitable for museum display. As an added bonus, visitors can keep some of the fossils they find as a souvenir. Prices begin at $125/person.
Swim with sea elephants. In Crystal River, Florida, snorkel with manatees, the elephants of the sea. Tours provide the experience of a lifetime as guests come face to face with these gentle giants who are just now coming of the endangered species list. Nearby opportunities include kayaking the rivers where manatees live or taking a guided boat tour through their waters. Prices begin at $25.
Safari at Yellowstone. Africa may have the big five in wildlife viewing, but the U.S. has its own version. Buffalo, elk, wolves, bears, and moose can all be spotted in their natural environment at Yellowstone National Park. Check with park rangers to discover animal hotspots and then let the U.S. safari begin. Park lodging averages $200/night.
Make a splash while white water rafting. Adrenaline filled adventures abound across the U.S., but one of the best is white water rafting. Experience the wildest rides in mountainous regions, east or west. Beginners might prefer one day trips at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, which happens to also be the official Olympic training site for the US canoe and kayak teams. Minimum age for white water rafting begins at 7 years old or 60 pounds. Prices begin at $50.
Become a lobsterman for a day. Enjoy a memorable excursion at Casco Bay in Portland, Maine or in other sea towns across the state. Learn what a lobsterman does and then help haul in the traps while enjoying the magnificent scenery, lighthouses, civil war forts and “Seal Rocks.” These tours provide an up-close glimpse at the life of a fisherman. Prices begin at $18.
Explore the big city. According to US News and World Report, the top five vacation cities in the continental United States are San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., Charleston and Chicago. Purchase a vacation package through the city’s tourism website and/or purchase a CityPass® card to save on activities such as bike tours, bus tours, entertainment and museum admissions. Prices vary, but a big city vacation on less than $2,000 is possible for a family of four.
Big vacation dreams don’t have to mean big vacation budgets. Vacations in the United States offer culture, excitement, adventure and experiences that rival those found in exotic places across the world.