It’s official: our family has lived in Alabama for over a year now. Last year, the stress and expense of our cross-country move seriously limited our travels; we ventured only to the beach for a week and the mountains for an extended weekend. Now that we’re all settled in here in our new home, I’m seriously itching to adventure out into the big wide world and see what we’ve been missing. In planning our family vacations this year, we were looking for destinations that offer a little bit of everything: relaxation, adventure, enrichment and fun. In the end, we narrowed it down to four trips that we think fit the bill quite perfectly.
Our DC itinerary is really full and really exciting. Rather than stay in a hotel in the city, we’ve opted to rent an apartment in Arlington with convenient access to the Metro. Ever since our trip to Hawaii a few years ago I’ve really favored staying in rental homes or apartments because they offer both amazing value and the convenience of being able to stretch out a bit more than a traditional hotel room allows. We also really enjoy being able to cook our own meals if we want to.
In addition to visiting with dear family friends who live in Virginia and trying some great restaurants, here are some of the highlights we’ve got planned:
Nighttime walking tour of the national mall and monuments
During our first trip to DC years ago we had the opportunity to tour several of the monuments but this will be the first time we’ve ever visited at night. We’re looking so forward to seeing everything beautifully lit up.
Visits to several museums
We’re heading to the International Spy Museum, the Newseum, the Daniel’s Story Exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Of those, the only one we’ve visited before was the Air and Space Museum so we’re definitely looking forward to some new experiences.
Tour the Capitol building
Have any of you done this? I’m not dying for this particular tour but I’m hopeful that it will be interesting.
Of all the trips we’re taking this year, this next one is perhaps the one I’m most excited about. We’re heading north of the border; it’ll be our first trip to Canada (not counting the Alaskan cruise that stopped briefly in Vancouver).
Friends, I don’t even know where to start with this one. Just look at the beauty! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Banff/ Lake Louise, the area is located just over an hour outside of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Probably best known for its gorgeous, glacier-fed lakes, Banff offers families a ton of opportunity for outdoor, active adventure. We’ll be splitting our stay between a condo in Canmore and the luxurious Post Hotel in Lake Louise. When we planned our trip we didn’t know it but were delighted to discover that Canada is celebrating a very special birthday this year and admission into her national parks is complimentary all year long! Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve got planned during our visit:
Family-friendly Hiking Trails
As you might imagine, this part of the Canadian Rockies offer countless trails. There’s a little something for everyone, including a plethora of mild to moderate trails well suited for families. One of the things we plan to do is hike to a remote tea house to enjoy fresh-baked treats before turning around and heading back. Isn’t that fun?
Explore the Town of Banff
While Banff is the name of Canada’s most visited National Park, it’s also the name of the town nestled within the park. Its streets are lined with fabulous restaurants and quaint mountain shops where visitors can pick up Canadian goods and souvenirs. There are also tons of festivals and events hosted here throughout the year.
Several years ago we went whitewater rafting in Durango, Colorado. In between the adrenaline rush of the Class III rapids, the raft floated leisurely down the river. We’re looking forward to another afternoon spend rafting in Canada.
Canoe Lake Louise
There is no chance I would pass up the opportunity to experience the grandeur of the scenery from the middle of it all.
I can’t wait to come back with my own pictures to show you guys!
Because we so thoroughly enjoyed our visit last year, we’re spending another week at the beach.
Seagrove Beach is located on Florida’s emerald coast, in the beaches of South Walton, along 30A. Last July we spent a week in a rental house and had THE best time. We rented bikes and stand up paddleboards and spent seven relaxing days with our toes in the sand. The only complaint we had was that it was ridiculously humid–crazy humid. We’re going in the fall this year and I’ve heard that we can expect gorgeous weather.
South Walton Beaches are absolutely gorgeous. Until our visit last year, I had no idea that Florida had beaches like this. I thought one had to travel to Mexico or the Caribbean for emerald ocean and white sand. Not so. And that sea grass?! So pretty.
The beaches lie in a string along a coastal highway and each one has a bit of a different feel to it. The photo above was taken in Seaside, where The Truman Show was shot. As you can see, there are a ton of cute shops and restaurants to check out.
We had fun biking from beach to beach to see what each had to offer. The photo above was taken in Rosemary Beach. There was an adorable town center there where they had free music in the square. Isn’t the architecture charming? Truly, each beach town was unique. We’re opting to stay in Seagrove once again because it’s conveniently located along 30A for quick biking access to several great spots. I’ll share more when we return from our trip later this year.
And, finally, the last trip we have planned is a cruise.
It’s been a couple of years since we last sailed on one of Disney’s beautiful ships. This year, we’re embarking on a quick little Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream. The Dream is the only one in Disney’s fleet of four cruise ships that we’ve not ever sailed on so it’ll be fun to check that box.
If you’re looking for a fun-filled, super simple beach trip, Disney cruises are pretty tough to beat. Once you step foot on the ship, there’s not much else to worry about but for when you’re going to eat and which activities you want to prioritize. Especially for families with children, this vacation will dazzle. Aboard the ship, guests have a plethora of options for dining, activities and entertainment. And then the ports of call offer a little something different, depending upon the itinerary you choose. During our upcoming cruise, we’ll be making a stop at one of our favorite ports, Castaway Cay.
Castaway Cay is Disney’s private Bahamian island. It is one of our favorite stops because the ship pulls right up to the dock and passengers disembark for beach time. The food is included in the price of the cruise so you don’t have to worry about money for that. And there are a ton of options for excursions on the island, too. In the past, we’ve done bike rentals, snorkeling, parasailing and kayaking. Of course, if you’re most easily pleased lying on the beach with a tropical drink in hand, that option is always available as well.
Which destinations have you decided to include in your vacation planning this year? Where should we consider traveling to next year?
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