A family vacation can be a complex thing – how do you find a destination that has activities that everyone in the family – from tots to teens, and including the parents, too – can enjoy. It’s a cinch that a children’s museum is entertaining for youngsters but boring to the teens, and the concert that the teens are excited about have mom and dad’s eyes rolling.
The answer? A big urban park, with activities for everyone. Three large cities in the U.S. offer just that.
1. Central Park, New York City.
Plunked down in the very middle of Manhattan is a huge park that stretches for 2.5 miles, is a half a mile wide, and covers 840 acres.
There are extensive walking, hiking and biking trails that meander through the woods and along open grassy areas, and plenty of open space for spreading out the family’s picnic blanket.
A 20-acre lake is right there for the entire family to enjoy spending a day boating together.
There are 32 children’s playgrounds, and each one offers something just a little different. The park also contains the Central Zoo, a wildlife sanctuary, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, and bridle paths. In the summer there is a swimming pool (that turns into a winter ice skating rink).
Adults in the family will enjoy “Shakespeare in the Park,” held during the summer in the open-air Delacorte Theater, and is free. Another free entertainment venue is the Central Park Summerstage. Your teens will enjoy the fact that many top musical performers give awesome concerts there.
2. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
This urban park is over a thousand acres, and is three miles long.
In the middle of the park is stunningly beautiful Stow Lake, with the splashing Huntington Falls waterfall, and a gazebo designed like a pagoda. Rent a rowboat or a fun paddle boat, pack a picnic, and head out to the center of the lake for lunch on popular Strawberry Island.
Here also is America’s oldest public playground, the Children’s Playground. It is now officially called Koret Children’s Quarter after a recent $3.8 million renovation that includes many new activities from spinning cups to slides, to a 50-foot climbing tower to ziplines. It even sports a classic carousel, built in 1912, with organ music and ornate animals to ride.
Golden Gate Park is also the only park in the country with its very own bison herd. Get up close and personal with these iconic American animals at Buffalo Paddock.
3. Balboa Park, San Diego.
The largest urban park in the U.S., Balboa Park covers over 1200 acres. The land was put aside for a public park by far-thinking city fathers way back in 1835. It is home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues including the Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theater, hiking and biking paths, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
The Model Railroad Museum in the Park will have all ages, including Dad, mesmerized. And there’s a train for the toddlers, too – the Balboa Park Miniature Railroad will take them on a ½ mile ride through several acres of the Park.
Every Sunday during the summer a free concert is presented at the Spreckels Organ. This amazing 1914 pipe organ is one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs, and has been giving free concerts since 1917. The local U.S. Navy Band also gives free summer concerts on this outdoor stage.
These huge urban parks are a budget-friendly way to enjoy a family vacation where every member of the family can have a good time. And another budget-friendly way to have your family vacation in these three cities is by renting a timeshare, which you can typically get for up to 50% less than the cost of downtown city hotels.
Alice Perkins is a timeshare travel blogger for RedWeek.com,the largest online market place for timeshare rentals, where vacationers can find luxury accommodations for less than the cost of a typical hotel room.