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The 10 Best Family Vacation Destinations for 2019

The new year brings a new chance to introduce your family to the wonders of travel, and our bucket list is overflowing with amazing places to explore with your kids in 2019. Thanks to an abundance of kid-friendly activities, as well as a bevy of grown-up attractions too, these our are ten favorite spots for family fun next year:

1. Portugal

Why go:

Just a short 6-hour flight from the East Coast, Portugal has everything you need for a European family getaway—rich culture and history, amazing food, beautiful scenery—but without the crowds or high costs of other European capitals, making it a perfect choice to stretch your travel dollars in 2019. Start your trip in easy-to-navigate Lisbon. The city is full of kid-centric attractions, including the expansive Oceanarium, voted TripAdvisor’s top aquarium in the world, filled with everything from sharks to sunfish. Hop on one of the city’s affordable yellow tramcars to traverse the cobblestone streets of the historic quarter and visit São George Castle. For dinner, Bairro de Avillez features a spacious courtyard design, friendly atmosphere, and extensive menu of Portuguese bites. Then hop a train to the coastal town of Cascais, just 30 minutes west. Originally a historic fishing village, today Cascais offers an easy beach getaway with 19th-century charm. Nearby, step into the fairytale UNESCO World Heritage Site Sintra, filled with spectacular castles guaranteed to impress your kids.

Where to stay:

Portugal is home to Martinhal, a unique hotel group that caters just to families with extra-large rooms, kids clubs, tot-friendly restaurants, play areas and even baby concierges. Their Chiado Hotel in Lisbon offers modern apartments right in the center of the historic district. Every room has a kitchen, high chair, potty seat and fun touches, including bunkbeds, plus smart design elements like rounded edges on the furniture and windows that only open with a key, all starting at less than $200. Best of all, they offer supervised evening movies and activities for kids (free) so parents can go out to a grown-up dinner in Lisbon. The Cascais property offers similar amenities, plus a wide array of leisure activities both on and off property including tennis, horseback riding, cycling and hiking.

2. Alaska

Why go:

It’s Alaska’s 60th anniversary of statehood in 2019, and they’re rolling out the red carpet to celebrate, including new direct flights from Newark to Anchorage—making the 49th State much more accessible. Although cruises may be the most familiar way to explore The Last Frontier, you can actually DIY an Alaska adventure. Base yourself in Anchorage and rent a car to drive south on the Seward Highway. Stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see native wildlife such as bison, reindeer and brown bears. Continue on to Seward for a day cruisearound Kenai Fjords National Park and a stop at the Alaska SeaLife Center for a special encounter with sea otters and puffins. Back in Anchorage, return the car and hop aboard the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park to explore North America’s tallest mountain and meet the sled dogs who work here.

Where to stay:

The Anchorage Marriott Downtown is a good choice for families, with an indoor pool and a central city location near the Imaginarium Discovery Center, a kid favorite. If you don’t want to plan a driving trip on your own, Discover Outdoorsoffers custom-guided, all-inclusive trips for groups of any size and age that include opportunities to hike, paddle, climb and explore nature.

3. Grand Canyon

Why go:

Let’s face it, if you have a family travel bucket list, taking your kids to see the nation’s greatest natural wonder is definitely on it. So why is 2019 the year to visit? Because Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating its 100th birthday as a national park. The park is rolling out special events to celebrate, but even without them, you can still explore the stunning scenery of the mile-deep crevice by hiking a corridor trail, riding a mule down the Canyon or just enjoying the landscape from an overlook. Another family favorite here: A ride on the Grand Canyon Railway, which combines an unforgettable ride through spectacular surroundings with live music and stories that bring the Old West to life.

Where to stay:

For the best access to the national park, stay at one of Grand Canyon National Park’s Lodges located right along the crater rim. If you don’t want to plan a trip on your own, Adventures by Disney offers weeklong trips to Utah and Arizona that combine Disney’s great planning skills, entertainment and amazing staff with memorable outings, including a private Canyon tour, cowboy cookout and a Colorado River whitewater rafting.

4. Tokyo, Japan

Why go:

All eyes will be on Japan in 2020 when the Land of the Rising Sun hosts the Olympics. The country has already added new tourism infrastructure, but the crowds haven’t arrived yet, making 2019 the perfect time to visit. And although it may take a little extra effort to get here, it’s a vacation guaranteed to please the kids. In a typical day in Tokyo, you can watch a musical robot show, sample sushi and real ramen, visit the home of anime at Studio Ghibli and sip tea while cuddling hedgehogs (seriously, we’re not sure how we’ll get our kids to leave once they get there).

Where to stay:

To immerse your family in omotenashi (traditional Japanese hospitality) and the remarkable food culture of Japan, the experts at Family Traveller suggest experiencing a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) at Hoshinoya Tokyo, which has a subterranean restaurant and a rooftop onsen (hot spring-fed) pool.

5. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Why go:

Puerto Rico is ready to take center stage again after its recovery from Hurricane Maria; for 2019, the sun-drenched island says the best way to support their revival is to come visit! That should be easy. San Juan is a quick domestic flight from much of the east coast. When you arrive, you’ll get all the excitement of a foreign trip, but with no need to exchange currency, worry about cell phone service or navigate customs, since Puerto Rico is a U.S. Commonwealth. Once here, head to the beaches of San Juan, where you’ll find plenty of sunshine, golden sand and warm azure waves. It’s just a short hop from your hotel to Old Town, where the 18th century El Morro fort is the perfect place to play a real game of pirates with your kids.

Where to stay:

The newly renovated Caribe Hilton reopens this spring with completely revitalized guest rooms, pool, spa and landscaping. Known as the birthplace of the Piña Colada (which is enough for us to visit), the hotel sits on an exclusive peninsula made up of 17 acres of lush tropical gardens, the only private beach in San Juan, where families can swim, kayak, snorkel and paddle board.

6. Toronto, Canada

Why visit:

It’s only a 90-minute trip from 60 percent of the United States to get to this friendly Canadian city, making it an easy weekend getaway, plus an affordable one, thanks to an advantageous exchange rate for Americans. For 2019, a plethora of family-friendly attractions are debuting, including the new Museum of Illusions (a fun mix of science and magic) and a new record-breaking roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland. And family favorite Ontario Science Centre is celebrating its 50-year milestone anniversary with a slew of new exhibits.

Where to stay:

Hotel X, Toronto recently opened its doors with resort-style amenities right in downtown, including a rooftop pool, indoor tennis and racquet ball courts, and a 3,000-square-foot kids activity center. The Chelsea Hotel caters to families with a Family Fun Zone, complete with a kid-centric saltwater pool with a looping waterslide that shoots outside the building (It’s the biggest hotel pool in Toronto, and the only one with a waterslide.) and arcade games to keep older kids busy.

7. New Orleans

Why visit:

In addition to decadent beignets at Café Du Monde and a river bayou tour, the top of our Big Easy bucket list now includes the Louisiana Children’s Museum (LCM), which opens in City Park in early 2019. The new building has indoor and outdoor spaces, including sensory and edible gardens, a floating classroom, a life-sized interactive chessboard and a Mighty Mississippi exhibit. Oh, and parents, there’s a kid-friendly restaurant run by the legendary Brennan family of Commander’s Palace fame here, too. Sneak some history into your NOLA visit with a stop at The National WWII Museum, commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-day in 2019, with new immersive exhibits and multimedia experiences.

Where to stay:

On the banks of the Mississippi River and steps from the French Quarter, Hilton New Orleans Riverside features family-friendly itineraries with insider recommendations for restaurants, live music, shopping and outdoor activities, like airboat tours. Onsite, families can enjoy authentic dishes at Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, two pools and a health club with indoor tennis and basketball courts.

8. Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Why go:

Costa Rica has gained prominence as one of the top eco-friendly tourism destinations in the world. The Central American country is brimming with amazing learning opportunities and once-in-a-lifetime experiences for families to enjoy together, and 2019 is finally delivering on affordable family friendly accommodations. Guanacaste is a natural fit for families visiting the verdant country. Highlights include Las Baulas Marine National Park, the nesting ground of the endangered Leatherback turtle who deposit their eggs on the beach here October through March. Vandara Hot Springs offers adventure seekers an unforgettable race through tree tops on a canopy zip line. And there’s also fishing, swimming and snorkeling along the pristine shores of Flamingo Beach.

Where to stay:

Margaritaville Beach Resort Playa Flamingo is a brand-new, 120-room destination resort that opened in November 2018—just in time for 2019 travel. The family resort offers a large covered children’s pool providing ample shade, an activity pool with a volleyball net, lighted tennis courts, a children’s playground, live entertainment, plus a family center with an in-house theater. And there’s plenty of room for the kids in family suites that include two sets of twin bunk beds.

9. France

Why go:

If you have kids who play soccer, then a trip to the Women’s World Cup in France this summer will score you big points. The tournament, held every 4 years, is a celebration of international women’s soccer, offering a chance to see the top players in the world, but tickets are much easier to come by than ones for the men’s tournament. Plus, the tournament’s 52 games are being played in June when the weather is at its most beautiful in the nine different French host cities, including seaside Nice, charming Lyon and iconic Paris. Base yourself in the City of Lights to get some culture with your kicks. Make the most of your time by purchasing a ParisPass which gives you skip-the-line access to all the top museums in the city, including the Louvre, plus top sites like Notre Dame Cathedral. It also includes tickets for the hop-on/hop-off Big Bus, which is a lifesaver when little legs no longer want to explore the city streets.

Where to stay:

Base yourself in a spacious apartment vetted by the experts at ParisPerfect. The company offers a hand-selected portfolio of properties in both Paris and Provence that come with concierges, plenty of personal service, not to mention kid-friendly amenities such as stepstools, night lights and très chic plastic dishware.

10. Island of Hawaii

Why go:

Kilauea volcano’s lava flow on the island of Hawaii made global headlines for three consecutive months last summer. Now that the volcanic activity has stopped, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the island’s most-popular attraction, has reopened and is offering new experiences unlike anywhere else in the world for 2019. Hawaii Forest and Trail’s new Volcano Unveiled tour showcases the historic events that changed the park—explore a private lava tube with yellow and gold microbial mats living on the cave walls. Adventurous families may want to zip-line in the park with KapohoKine Adventures or peddle around with Bike Volcano.

Where to stay:

There are few places as family friendly as Hilton Waikoloa Village. Take a boat ride to your room, watch dolphins cavorting by the pool, swim in a protected lagoon with tropical fish and green turtles, or rocket down a waterslide into a lazy river, all without leaving the hotel.

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